What's better than one rice and gravy? Two or three or four. You see where I am going here? I know I already mentioned how much we love rice and gravy here but it’s serious y’all. I just made this for Sunday Supper. Even in 104℉ heat index people loaded up their plates and sat on the porch in humid, thick, air and happily ate what can be described as a light dish. If you're not familiar with the heat in Southern Louisiana you may want to skip ahead and keep it a mystery.
See our summers are like being stuck in a sauna that you can’t turn off. If the sun doesn't get you the humidity will. You wake up in your air conditioned house, jump in the shower, feeling clean and refreshed, you step outside to start your day, then BOOM! The wave of heat covers you. Your hair immediately starts to react. If you have naturally curly locks they go from beautiful, bouncy, curls to frizzy, unmanageable, rats nest. Don’t worry, the South doesn't leave out our straight-haired friends. If you have ever wanted look like someone poured a bucket of a viscous liquid on your head then come to Louisiana in the summer. As you hair slowly starts to rebel against you that's when the sweating starts. Just the walk from the house to your car you start sweating in places you didn’t know could sweat. The sweating is so bad I have even heard stories of larger chested women putting slices of white bread in their bras to absorb it. I know gross but in all honesty, I have to say I have thought about it. I have shown up to a closing only to realize after I left I have two giant smiling lines of under-boob sweat. Yep, that says professional business women, for sure. Another reason why any bra, sock, or underwear money is categorically not accepted in the South, I mean people post signs letting their patrons know this rule.
God forbid you made the fatal mistake of wearing jeans. Your casual stroll slowly turns into a re-creation of you trying to walk through a waste deep mud puddle. As you struggle to the car, the mosquitos come after you like they have been waiting for hours just for a taste of your sweet blood. We have mosquitos that are of unusual size. Large buggers that you can see darting at you from all sides. So there you are, trying to walk and swat at yourself at the same time, some endless version of "stop hitting yourself". You finally make it to the car and then comes another surprise. If you have leather seats they become like hot plates that have been left on for hours. As mentioned, most of us do not wear pants in the Summer if we can avoid it. In the North, they are known for turning on the heater for awhile before driving the car. Here it is our air conditioner. It takes awhile for that AC to start cooling things down. The first five minutes in your hot box of a car is a struggle of wanted to roll down the window for some relief and not wanted to let that precious cooled air out before it can do its job. The worst is when you realize it’s June and you have at least three more months before you can feel human again. See we aren't lazy in the South we are just really hot. How did our ancestors do it with no AC? Not only that but how the hell did they have so many kids? The last thing I want in the Summer is anyone else body heat near me. Mine is quite enough, thank you. As my grandmother used to say “Mais, Poo-yie this is a three drawer* day” *(drawer=underwear)
I probably haven’t sold you on visiting the South in the Summer. That being said, if you ever want to know where we get our humor and Laizzes-faire attitude then a Summer visit is the only way to find out. Hopefully, I can sell you on the awesomeness that is seven steak rice and gravy. The way we chase any small hint of wind is how we chase after a good rice and gravy.
We did a roux based gravy already, now it’s time for an even simpler rice and gravy. This seven steak rice and gravy is a very traditional dish served in almost every Cajun kitchen. With 6 ingredients, patience is truly the hardest part in making this dish. Seven steak is a thin cut of beef. It is very tough so it must be cooked down for a long time. The name of this cut simply come from the 7 shaped bone that runs through the chuck roast from which it is sliced from. Oddly enough even seven steak is hard to find at grocery stores here. We mainly have to buy them at meat markets now. There is also a similar cut called gravy steaks. Most butchers can cut you some if you ask. You can also cut down a pot roast in cubes and prepare them the same way with similar results.
The ingredients are simple onion, garlic, bell pepper, oil or fat, broth and seven steak. I’ve reviewed seven steak but let me re-iterate if you can’t find this particular cut almost any cheap cut of beef will do. Don't try to fancy this up with expensive cuts of meat. Resist the urge. Those bones, fat, and gristle add to the flavor. Not to beat a dead horse but have I mentioned how much I believe in the flavor in fat and bones? The next key ingredient is the broth, I know I know this women doesn't shut up about Broth. But y’all its important. With so few ingredients you need to get that flavor in there however you can. Try to use homemade either chicken or beef, shoot if you have pork use that. If you don’t have time use the packaged broth just try to get the best you can find. Some people use water but I truly feel you're just punishing yourself if you do. The onions I slice in this because I like the finished product with sliced onions. The more onions you use the thicker the gravy usually. I like bell pepper in this but omitting it won’t ruin your rice and gravy. A lot of people just use onions and garlic, they aren’t wrong it’s good that way too. I just usually have bell pepper on hand because I have way too many pepper plants. Now for the fat, I use bacon grease because I always have it on hand but feel free to use veggie oil if you aren’t as lucky.
Now let's get going on some rice and gravy making.
The first and last part is the most important. Heat up your fat/oil in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron. Once heated brown your meat. I mean really brown it. Come on, it’s worth it. You want a deep dark gravy? Then you must take the time to brown the meat. All those gremilles (those small yummy bits left behind) left in the pan, that's the good stuff. You wanna see a Cajun get mad? Clean out a pan they have browned meat in. I may or may not have physically accosted someone for doing this. Once properly browned remove and set aside. Now add your veggies and cook them down somewhere between wilted and caramelized. Once done add your broth and stir till it becomes one cohesive unit. Once all those are combined add your meat back in. There should be enough broth to slightly cover the meat. Add broth if you need, don't worry it will cook down. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid ( note you can put it in a 275 oven at this point, just don’t forget to check on it) simmer till the meat is so tender that just touching it falls apart. This can range from 1/12-3 hours depending on the cut of the meat and keeping it at a constant simmer. A rolling boil does not long. It happens faster, we have all tried it so believe me simmering is your friend. Check it every 30 minutes to stir and add broth as needed. If the gravy has reduced too much when the meat is done just add more broth, if it's too thin just cook a little bit longer with the lid off, it won't hurt the meat.
That's it! Once the meat is tender serve over a nice heap of cooked rice. It’s not pretty y’all but it tastes damn good. You can enjoy the fact that you are enjoying a great dish that Cajuns have been cooking for hundreds of years. A simple unpretentious dish that makes you feel at home and puts a smile on your face just like the great people who make it.
• 2 (1 pound each) seven (blade) steaks (or gravy steaks)
• pepper and Cajun seasoning (recipe on blog)
• 1/3 cup vegetable oil or bacon fat
• 1 large onion, cut into thin slices
• 1 small bell pepper finely diced
• 3 large garlic cloves, minced
• 1½ cups beef broth (pork and chicken will work also)
Evenly season steaks with pepper and Cajun seasoning and let rest till room temp.
Heat oil or fat l in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat; add steaks and brown really well on both sides.
Depending on what size pan to steaks you may have to one at a time, crowding them affects how well they brown.
Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
Add onions and bell pepper to pan drippings; sauté until softened and almost caramelized but don’t caramelize them, about 10 minutes
Add garlic, sauté until fragrant, about three minutes.
Deglaze with beef stock, add steaks back to pan, return to a simmer.
Cover with lid, reduce heat to low, and cook 1½ to 3 hours (depends on the cut of meat you had to use) or until fork tender, stirring often.
Serve over hot cooked rice