- Reverse Engineering
- Season 1
- Episode 25
Recreating Carla Hall's Chicken Fried Steak From Taste
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Released on 02/16/2022
Hi, it's Rhoda.
And I'm here in the BA test kitchen
to have a secret conversation about Chris Morocco.
we're putting Chris's super taster abilities to the test.
This is Carla Hall's chicken fried steak
with sausage cream gravy.
I'm challenging Chris to recreate this dish
using every ingredient
in just one day.
He'll be able to taste it, touch it, smell it,
but at no point will he be able to see this dish.
At the end of the day,
we'll be back to see his final creation
and I'll be the judge.
Oh, it's like a piece of bread,
with like pickle and like a little bit of onion.
And then there's like, a crispy bit under there.
But it's like, is this a sandwich?
Taste like raw onion, raw white onion.
Like this doesn't,
this is not like, wonder bread right?
This smells like yeast, bread.
Feels like it was probably toasted
getting a little bit of like a dried out sort of texture
against the side of the bread.
Took it clothes off here.
Very crisp, breaded coating.
We could be getting a little bit of cayenne or paprika,
garlic and or onion powder,
it's staying monumentally crispy.
Like this is actually like a pretty intimidating
bit of culinary magic kind of going on here.
Now in something like a chicken cutlet,
you're very often gonna find an egg wash
used as your liquid component.
I don't know if that's super common
with what I think this is.
A seemingly flat pounded piece of beef.
As it cooks, it kind of contracts.
Those muscle fibers tighten.
I'm a feeling like this really started out fairly thin.
Okay, and now there's real situation happening here.
So much [beep] black pepper in here,
it's just like [imitates machine gun].
Tastes like sausage gravy.
Could it be a breakfast sausage just with like,
massive application of black pepper
and maybe some cayenne as well.
I think this is chicken fried steak
super American Southern.
Not sure about the chef.
That's it for this tasting.
And it is time to make a shopping list.
Jesus Christ at least yell action or something.
What cut of steak
do you chicken fry?
[Crew] And what is Chicken-Fried?
Why is it not Steak-Fried?
I don't know.
I don't know.
Okay, shopping list.
Sirloin steak question mark.
But some options would be kind of awesome on this.
Buttermilk for the dredge.
We need some AP flour.
Let's also get like some Wondra flour.
It's a flour made from like very soft wheat.
Onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne,
breakfast sausage, milk, cream.
I don't think we need eggs.
Like, can I just like, make that statement?
The truth is, I mean it's very hard to tell.
It didn't taste obviously egg-y,
but to what degree does like a chicken cutlet taste egg-y?
Anyway, I don't know.
Fine, let's just get eggs.
So then we also need white sandwich bread,
red onion, yellow onion,
Somebody's gonna go out, shop these ingredients
and I will have my first shot at the dish.
We're gonna get the meat brining,
assemble the dredge,
and then we're gonna make the gravy.
Before we do that, somebody [beep] up.
What's this, what's all this?
Look at the last radius of the spatter,
oil all over.
This is almost certainly not a deep fried item.
I mean, this whole thing could be a set up.
This could be one big [beep] brick
in the set of the Truman Show that my life has become, okay?
You know where you have oil sloshed out of something?
It's when you fry something in cast iron but like, low.
Everything's a [beep] clue.
That's why you smell the inside of the cloche,
that's why you lick the surfaces
when you come into the test kitchen
before the production team is here, okay?
'Cause everything's a [beep].
So we're gonna start with meat.
This is sirloin steak, okay.
And then this is a top loin steak,
has a little bit more intramuscular fat,
also looks just by its very nature,
a little bit more tender to me.
This to me looks like a top loin steak
that has been pounded out aggressively.
Like Sam the Butcher style,
just like sat there and like whacked away at it.
You know, while somebody waited in line.
I wanna use this top loin steak.
I'm cutting it in half just to give it a head start,
because we want to end up in a very thin place.
Keep it as even as I can.
And then we pound.
Spikey side of the meat mallet
is gonna increase the tenderizing effect.
If you take this too far
the meat's just gonna start falling apart.
This is my one nice sweater.
You know, this is just too big.
You could easily turn this into two pieces,
something like that, you know.
I don't think there's any harm in doing a piece of top loin.
Also doing a piece of cubes steak.
It's like, this looks pretty damn good to me.
Leaner, feels a little more tender.
I'm gonna go with both of these
and see how they are side by side.
Now we're gonna move onto our buttermilk brine.
Big picture, the meat is ultimately gonna hang out
in two different bowls.
One is going to contain a buttermilk brine.
The other is going to be the dry dredging mix.
I'm just going to whack a bunch of this in here
and I'm gonna season it up with salt and pepper.
Buttermilk helps tenderize meats because of the acidity
which acts on the protein in the meat.
Cube steak is in.
[Crew] Top round.
[beep] Top round, top cube.
Top gun, greatest movie of all time.
That's the brine portion.
This is be the dredging mix.
You can use a range of ingredients in dried dredges
flour being one of them.
You can also use starches
for like Korean style fried chicken.
I feel like that is more of like a starch based coating.
It's like very thin, but very crispy.
Wondra flour does have a tendency to show up a lot
in Southern foods.
Flour is raw.
Please cook fully before enjoying.
It's like what happened
that they had to start printing that on the box, you know?
They're talking about it mostly
as being something to use in gravies.
So I don't know.
Should we use it in the gravy?
Maybe, like let's go for it and see.
But think that you'd wanna higher protein flour.
So I'm sticking with all purpose for that.
Little bit of cayenne.
I feel good about onion powder, garlic powder.
Onion powder gives earthiness, it gives umami.
Garlic powder is really assertive.
They're not interchangeable for their fresh counterparts,
but they both do have like,
wonderful transformative qualities.
Paprika is gonna provide the ability
to pick up like that color you probably want.
Also wanna do a lot of black pepper here,
and then we need to put some salt in there too.
Steak is staying in the brine until we're ready to fry.
Got the dredge right here.
Just putting those aside.
The main components that I was tasting in the gravy
were some kind of roux, thickened dairy,
kind of fatty ground pork, and a lot of black pepper.
I would probably expect to find some onion
and probably some garlic in there as well.
Like if it is a sausage meat that's in that gravy
it's probably breakfast sausage.
But to be totally honest
there was so much [beep] black pepper in there.
It made me wanna sneeze immediately when I ate it
I don't know that I would be able to say a hundred percent
if it's like, ground pork or breakfast sausage anyway.
I'm looking to put a little bit of color
on this ground pork,
bring out as much flavor from it as possible.
One thing I really noticed with this gravy is that
the meat was broken up really finely.
If you try to break up the meat too quickly
it kind of inhibits browning a little bit.
Like, that's good.
That's where a lot of flavor's gonna come from.
Put in the onion and garlic on top of that
let it sweat out and then build the sauce from there.
Craving a little bit more fat from it.
I'm just gonna go a little bit more oil.
And this is where it's like
did I need more meat to create more fat?
Might season this with a little bit of salt.
We're pretty much at the point where I think we
could introduce some black pepper.
Have that fat,
and the skillet is gonna help really kind of bloom
and activate its flavor.
Man, you smell it.
This Wondra flower is some wild stuff.
It feels coarser, almost a little bit semolina-like.
A cup of milk here.
And as it comes to a boil it's thickening.
This is pleasantly thick.
Not [beep] bad.
I'm gonna put it on the back burner so to speak,
we can move on to frying of the steak.
Steak has been in the brine
about half an hour or so I'd say.
So I know about this,
I've just never done it.
Here's what I wanna try.
I'm gonna take a couple tablespoons of this
and put it in the dry mix,
which is gonna create some of these kind of like,
clumpy moments that are then gonna hopefully
adhere to the steak.
That's our cube steak.
Pack on this mixture.
Get as much of it to adhere.
Next one, we're gonna actually season first.
And this is the top round.
Got like a pretty nice thick coating.
That's kind of what I'm talking about here.
I'm not hating that at all,
to be honest.
I feel like we wanna get that into the oil at 360.
We're going in.
Bad idea to put these in the same time?
I'm liking the color.
I'm liking these ripples.
All this really violent bubbling make is making it look
like maybe not quite the level of adhesion
I might need here,
but I don't know.
Maybe it's gonna crisp up a little bit
and solidify as it sort of cools.
So the look of this one
which is the top round,
looks a little better to me.
You've got the gravy,
like a pretty tight little gravy situation here.
I have my lightly toasted bread.
Yeah, this is round one.
I'm not hating it.
I feel like maybe drying off the steak a little bit more
before putting it in the coating.
I don't know.
I'll go with a 78%.
There could be more things in the brine, or not.
I feel like there could be more things
in the gravy, or not.
Technique I feel pretty good about,
a pounded steak, dredged, wet brine.
I'd say like maybe an 86.
In terms of appearance,
I feel like pretty good about that.
I think it's like the right elements.
Maybe even a 90?
I don't think I'm so far off.
The meat's like, pretty tender.
I mean, it's not spa food, you know what I mean?
Maybe an 85.
Frankly, go with even more black pepper.
And maybe we should do the touch
of cayenne in there,
and just wake everything up.
So that averages me out to an 85.
On this piece of paper are my actual scores.
I'm actually looking pretty good on ingredients.
Technique is where I'm the shortest.
Maybe it's not a wet brine,
because I was a little bit upset
by how much moisture was coming out of that meat, you know?
It didn't seem like it,
but trust me, I was feeling really upset.
Also curious about this 87 for appearance.
Maybe I was wrong about the toasting of the bread.
And wouldn't it just be some like,
weird frigging Southern thing
to just have a slice of un-toasted bread on there
with some pickles on top.
I've got one more tasting of the original dish,
and then I have one more shot to get it right
before it has to be judged.
I just wanna see how big this sucker is.
We're not quite edge to edge
on the plate here, but we're getting close.
I'm gonna dig into the gravy here.
There's just so much [beep] black pepper in this.
Just so much black pepper in here,
but there also could be some cayenne,
giving just a little bit of a brightness,
really opening up the flavoring.
Yeah, there's this slight kind of like,
gummy coating on the meat.
What if it's a dredge, but split into two things.
So first the meat goes into the dry mixture,
then into egg,
and then into
That's what I'm wondering.
I feel good about the cube steak,
but I think we need to change up this process a little bit.
Maybe it is about treating it a little bit more
like a cutlet of sorts.
And then the bread.
Yeah, I don't think the bread was toasted.
Definitely some changes to be made here
in terms of my technique.
And I've got one more shot to get this right
before I have to put this up for judging.
So last time we made a buttermilk brine that the meat sat in
before going into the dredge.
This time we're just making a dredge,
we're gonna put egg as our wash,
and then the meat is gonna go dredge into the egg,
and then from the egg back into the dredge,
and that's it.
I don't really know
that I'm gonna make changes with it so much.
I like the paprika.
I like garlic and onion powder.
I like the little bit of cayenne,
and I like the black pepper.
I like the black pepper.
I like the,
ah, there we go.
Didn't feel like there was anything that was like,
big smoking gun I needed to take out.
I think the buttermilk brine was introducing a little bit
too much moisture.
I'm really just doing the egg instead.
And maybe that's gonna give me a little bit more
of that crispiness I'm looking for
and a little bit more of that adhesion as well.
Wanna let this stuff sit while I work on the gravy.
I really didn't taste onion and garlic in the gravy.
I just feel like they're there.
It's honestly hard to taste anything
other than black pepper.
I was clearly off by a number of points
in terms of my ingredient score.
I do think and have said from the beginning
that this could be breakfast sausage here
breakfast sausage is introducing a little bit of sweetness
in the form of sugar in this case,
sometimes it might be maple syrup
olive oil feels wrong.
So I'm just sticking with veg oil here.
Look at the increased browning on the meat,
the sugar caramelizes.
You can expect like,
a slight kind of deepening of flavor
and maybe just an overall intensifying.
It's almost to the point where
I just don't think we have to like,
do the whole thing with the aromatics and all of that.
I think we're gonna get like quite a bit of flavor here.
Throw the black pepper in now.
Toast it out.
I'm feeling good about the amount of fattiness
that's in here too.
So that's the milk going in.
I'm going with Cayenne.
Now I'm not trying to make it like, overtly chilli spicy.
I just wanna really kind of brighten
and lift the flavor a little bit.
Yeah, the cayenne just like,
rounds out all those edges of the black pepper,
wakes up the flavor.
Like I actually feel pretty good
about the flavor at this point.
All right, so we wanna get the meat going.
I want to go bigger than I had last time.
I probably want to, you know,
have it be a little past the edge of the plate
knowing it's gonna shrink up.
So we're gonna go salt and pepper.
Going in the dredge here.
Now it's going into beaten egg.
This is gonna do a similar thing,
hopefully that the buttermilk was doing,
but also introduce less moisture.
Back into the same dredge.
I don't know.
It's like that fourth beer, you know, probably a bad idea
but damn, it kind of feels good at the time, you know?
Like that's kind of, that's kind of cool.
All right, so one piece of meat going in,
and I hope it works out.
I think the dry, wet, dry process,
like did us some good here,
it tightened up, you know, as expected.
But I think we've got overall
just a much crispier aspect to this.
Yeah, I'm feeling good.
Can you cut out the part where I said
it was not in fact Wonder bread?
but hopefully important ones and correct ones.
If I was at an 83 before, in terms of my own self score
I would say I'm at a 90.
Technique is where I suffered the most.
I don't know.
Let's go with 85 on technique.
Appearance, I was looking pretty good before.
Oh, let's go with a 90.
I had a little taste of the gravy,
so I think we're knocking on 88.
That brings my average to an 88.
This is a dish that Rhoda,
I'm just gonna guess knows intimately.
It's a bit of a dangerous game here.
Weren't you supposed to have a day off today?
I came in just for you Chris.
That's what makes me nervous.
Who made this and what did they make?
I called this chicken fried steak.
With sausage gravy.
And who do you think created this deliciousness?
I don't know.
I never know.
Chris, may I present Carla Hall's chicken fried steak
with sausage cream gravy.
[beep] I literally have like,
spoken to Carla Hall on the phone like,
twice in the last month.
Looking at the blondness,
the cutlet is really kind of like,
presenting fairly different.
I think the biggest win of all was
not toasting the bread the second time around.
You ever had barbecue?
This like a very common thing to find on a plate.
Okay, yeah, that's fair.
I didn't, I wouldn't have like, yep.
I didn't, yep.
You nailed the seasoning mix.
However she seasons the meat.
Then it goes into corn starch.
I could see that giving you
that really nice level of adhesion.
Can I honestly sit there and say
that I taste onion powder versus garlic powder?
We're expecting you to be able to say that.
Yeah, no, well I can't.
So I mean, cancel the show,
like I can't.
And then you said you had buttermilk first.
And then I went to egg.
Okay, so she actually does both,
then AP flour and rice flour.
The rice flour would account for some
of the Supreme sort of crunchiness on the exterior.
All right, let's talk about your gravy.
Why did you choose Wondra flour?
It said right on the tin that it excels in gravies
Okay, I can't wait to do a side by side tasting
because this is just regular flour.
[Rhoda] Breakfast sausage, correct.
Lots of pepper.
Is there cayenne in there?
I'm pretty impressed by your gravy.
I think you were almost there.
You got the bread.
What kind of onion did you choose?
Yellow. This was white.
It tasted so punchy that onion.
You know, what's so fascinating about this?
Like, look at how the shell of Carla's stayed intact
and the meat shrank away from it.
I think it's that combination of starches, yeah.
It truly created like, an architectural shell.
Are we tasting the original or mine?
Let's do the original first.
I love it.
It's so peppery.
Okay, let's try yours.
I don't need your pity.
It's good, but the seasoning is like,
really good in Carla's.
Yours does taste very similar though.
I think I'm very happy with my gravy.
It's good with pickle.
Good with wonder bread too,
but it has to wonder bread.
Everybody knows that.
Are you ready for your score?
For ingredients, you gave yourself a 90.
I'm gonna go with 85,
mostly because of the starch situation.
For technique, you gave yourself an 85.
I'm gonna go with 84.
I'm really glad you got to the dry, wet, dry,
from your first round.
I think that was like really key in getting
the coating that you wanted.
Appearance, you gave yourself a 90.
I'm gonna give you a 95.
I think it looked really good.
At least like visually,
nailed that side of things.
And finally, taste.
You gave yourself an 88.
Tasted really similar to the original,
but Carla is just a bit more aggressive with that seasoning.
On the steak, yeah.
So I'm gonna go with an 85.
That brings your total score to 87.
I don't get a whole lot of B pluses in this game, so.
I think you should be proud for just being you, Chris.
For just getting out of bed,
and putting one foot in front of the other,
I like this dish, you know why?
Because there's some hidden depth to it
that really make it unique and singular.
So fascinating and gratifying to be put into
some other chef's clogs
to have to see through their perspective and their context.
And this was no exception.
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