Louis Fowler vs. the Pioneer Woman: Chicken-Fried Steak with PW’s Creamy Mashed Potatoes

I recently acquired a thoroughly used copy of Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl from an online auction site for around five bucks with the idea to, in an absolute Julie & Julia move, recreating to the best of my ability every recipe from Drummond’s cookbook.

Flipping through the slight tome, I was trying to find a couple of starter recipes that not only exemplifies the Pioneer Woman, but much of Oklahoma as well, eventually settling on, what else, chicken-fried steak with “PW’s” creamy mashed potatoes. Now I never claimed to be a good cook—or even a mediocre one—but that seemed easy enough, right?

After piecemealing the various ingredients together, I decided to prepare the dinner at my ladyfriend’s house, mostly because my multi-use house with its multi-use kitchen was no place to concoct a clean, decent meal, or at least one that wouldn’t be sampled by roommates or mice when my back was turned.

Laying out the ingredients, I began by boiling the potatoes, with the idea to leave the skin on them, probably for the additional nutrients and definitely because I hate peeling them. As they bounced about in the hot water, I laid out the makings of the chicken fried steak, including a plate of tenderized cube steak, a plate of egg whites mixed with milk, and a plate of spiced flour, a little extra on the cayenne and smoked paprika.

With a couple of cups of olive oil (instead of canola or vegetable as recommended) in the cast iron skillet, I tenderly laid the prepared steaks in, gently to avoid anymore spills and splatters that would leave further damaging scars like the frybread incident earlier this year. As those sizzled with all their might, I drained the hot water from the potatoes and started mashing them like a beast.

Per the instructions, I added a couple of sticks of butter and a whole fucking block of cream cheese, the American Neufchâtel kind, mostly because it apparently has one third the fat content than the regular. I poured a cup of half and half as I read the Pioneer Woman’s directions aloud, all of which included the outright threat to “feel guilty.”

I have a feeling she wants to stick a whisk in my heart and spill it all over the kitchen.

Turning the steaks to the other side, a bit of the crispy coating came off, gathering at the bottom of the skillet, frying browner than the rest of the eats. When I took them out of the oil, even more of the golden outsides came off, most of which I gathered with a spoon and clumsily covered the top of the steaks with, now resting on a paper towel on yet another plate.

The potatoes achieved the kind of clumpy creaminess that I’m sure PW would spit a wad of chew at. I then attempted the final part of the recipe that called for cream gravy made with the unused oil but, honestly, it wasn’t a success, coming out as thick as the potatoes and nowhere near as smooth.

Still, I made plates for my ladyfriend and myself as we sat at the table in the dining room. She politely smiled and said it was alright first try; as I sampled my own cooking, I mostly agreed with her, the steaks resembling a skinned knee and the potatoes exuding a cream cheese flavor. And let’s forget about the gravy, okay?

Even though I’m sure that in this needless contests of Oklahoman concoctions between Ree and I that she would easily win, I’m going to give it another shot next month and, I swear by the Marlboro Man’s blackened lungs that, eventually, I will best her or die trying, possibly from a massive heart attack.

Pioneer Woman 1, Louis Fowler 0.


Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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15 Responses

  1. Cooking tip: EVOO or regular olive oil cannot handle the heat viscosity of most vegetable or canola oils, so it breaks down and burns making things not quite so pleasant. My recommendation is to use avocado oil which has most of the benefits of EVOO but can handle much higher temperatures especially when cooking chicken fried steak or fried chicken.

    1. Avocado oil? Interesting,,, I’ll have to try that out.

      1. You can get avocado oil reasonably priced at Costco (well, we can in the RGV). I’m sure they have it in OKC.

    2. Cooking tip #2: Don’t crowd the pan when you are frying the meat. It is better to fry the meat in batches because loading up the pan will cool down the cooking oil/fat & that will also make the coating slip off. It helps to let the meat stand awhile to warm up abit so it doesn’t cool the cooking oil/fat when you fry.
      Cooking tip #3: Gravy can be a challenge but the secret is using the same amount of the cooking fat as flour & use a whisk to blend it until it has the consistency of wet sand. Then add the milk & keep whisking until it bubbles. 3 tablespoons of fat or oil to 3 tablespoons of flour & about 1 cup of milk is a good ratio. Adjust the amount of milk depending on how thick you want the gravy.
      All in all a respectable first try

  2. I was going to caution Louis that the PW’s recipes could be hazardous to one’s health, but I see that he is already aware. I preach moderation, not abstinence – so enjoy!

    My wife has discovered Terry’s avocado oil trick, and she swears by it.

  3. My favorite recipe, out of her cookbook, is penne ala betsy. It has shrimp and a tomato cream sauce that is easy and foolproof. Also. Turn the heat up and fry a little longer on those CFS’. They look like they had potential.

  4. The PW recipes are too much fat, salt, etc. Heart healthy they are not.

  5. Ever since the shut down started the pros from Food Network haven’t been able to come to Pawhuska and PW has been winging it with her own recipes and her kids as sidekicks. It has been predictably awful.

    1. Amen to that!! Very amateurish and she acts like she’s been freely sampling the cooking wine.

  6. Gravy is scary to make if you haven’t tried it before. If your gravy gets too thick, turn off the heat and slowly pour in additional milk until you get the desired thickness!

  7. The egg-in-a-hole recipe on the PW’s website is tasty. It’s her take on an old classic, meaning, like all of her other recipes, it’s totally unoriginal.

  8. Impressive choice for an attempt at making her stolen recipes! CFS is tough, I always get the oil too hot and they come out naked. Hate it. I’ve used cream cheese in mashed potatoes for years, but now use it in mashed cauliflower which is divine. If you would like the texture of the cream cheese taters but less fat and hefty, use a cup of plain green yogurt. Much better for you and just as good.

    I have no idea why I’m giving tips here, I came to let you know this was a fun article and the gray paper towels in the pictures have served as a great appetite suppressant. Thanks!

  9. Also, I like the juxtaposition of Ree Drummond and Freddie Mercury in the first picture.

    1. Yep. One was a real queen, the other is a wannabe.


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