As a little girl, one of my favorite dinners that my mom made for us was Steak Strips, mashed potatoes and cream gravy. They were thin strips of round steak, coated in flour and Italian seasoning then pan fried in her cast iron skillet just until crispy and browned. The rest of the flour mixture was used along with the drippings and remnants of the browned bits to make a fabulous gravy that echoed the flavor of the steak. This was the first gravy I learned how to make, as one day my mom handed me the whisk and said, “Just keep stirring until it’s thick and bubbly”, as she left to go help a friend. The passing of the whisk in this way is a bit of a family tradition, as according to legend, my mom learned her gravy skills in the same way from her mother.
Even though my parents raised beef, we never really ate “real steaks” like ribeyes and strips. I vaguely remember a few T-bones broiled in the oven (an act I now judge as nearly criminal), but we ate a lot of ground beef, roasts and round steak. As far as I was concerned as a kid, steak strips were about as good as you could get, so who needed those other steaks?
Fast forward to adult me. I came across a gem of a recipe the other day that piqued my curiosity, especially since it used beef. I had made something similar before with pork, but this sounded interesting! The original recipe called for "cubed steaks". Me being the "meat lady" and all, I knew that I could use a round steak that I had thawed out. Round steak, cubed steak and minute steak can all be used interchangeably because they are essentially the same cut. They all come from farther back on the beef and are all usually tenderized at the butcher (that’s why they have those little divots in them). They can be cooked one of two ways - a quick cook like a pan fry for a chicken-fried steak or cut thinly for stir fry, or a low-and-slow cook with a luscious sauce. They work great for quick meals (hence the name "minute steak") or in the crock pot. In our meat shop, the minute steaks are pre-cut into individual portion sizes and our round steaks are a larger cut that can be portioned out as you choose.
I cut my round steak into 5 servings and that was the basis for this meal. I also used our Cajun Seasoning blend, which is not spicy but adds a great Cajun-style flavor. I actually got a hug from my son, even though the dish included (gasp) vegetables and his arch-enemy, rice. My husband amped his up a bit with some Louisiana hot sauce, which my daughter also thought she needed - of course. Everyone enjoyed it. So I pass it on to you. Don't get me wrong - I'm never giving up my love of steak strips! This just helps to mix it up a bit.
Cajun Steak Skillet
1/4 cup flour
4-6 servings of beef round steak or minute steak
1 tablespoon cooking oil of your choice
14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Cajun Seasoning blend
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for steaks
1 large green pepper cut into bite-sized pieces
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
Hot cooked rice
Portion your round steak, if needed. Season both sides of your steaks with salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl or plate, blend the flour and 1 teaspoon of the Cajun seasoning. Preheat a large skillet that has a lid over medium heat. Add the cooking oil. Dredge the steaks in the flour mixture then place into the hot skillet, fry in 2 batches if needed. Cook on both sides just until browned then remove from the skillet. Add the celery, green pepper, onion and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes until the vegetables start to soften, then add 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 2 teaspoons of Cajun Seasoning.
Pour the can of tomato sauce and the can of petite diced tomatoes into the skillet with the vegetables. Bring to a simmer then add the steaks back into the skillet, burying them slightly in the sauce. Cover and cook 25-30 minute. Adjust salt as needed for your taste. Serve over hot rice.