~ Upscale TV-Dinner-Style Salisbury Steak & Gravy~
Salisbury steak. I was first introduced to it as a child, in our home, via the Swanson TV Dinner -- my generation's fast food. Once a week, when mom or dad went grocery shopping, my brother and I were allowed to pick one TV Dinner, which we would eat on Thursday. To this day, I associate Thursdays with TV Dinners. TV Dinner Thursday: sitting on the carpeted floor, in front of our TV, legs crossed, in my PJ's, in front of a short-legged folding table, watching The Flintstones and Bewitched with my brother -- me eating Salisbury Steak, he Fried Chicken.
Once I got a bit older, Salisbury steak was a favorite of mine when we ate at our hometown's Taylor's and Beacon Diners, and later in my Junior high school's cafeteria. I never turned my nose up at it. That said, as an adult and a cook, there came a time, when it was time, for me to learn to make it. Without a recipe, I turned to my #1 reference and recipe source at the time: the 1977 edition of The Joy of Cooking. Here's what they had to say:
The Joy of Cooking, page 486. Merchants of the German port of Hamburg through centuries of trade with Estonians, Latvians and Finns, had acquired the Baltic taste for scraped raw beef, but it was not until the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904 that broiled, bunned beef was introduced to the rest of the world by the Germans of South St. Louis as "the hamburger". Americans quickly latched onto it. For a bustling people it offered a combination of convenience, economy and tasty nourishment that was "just what the doctor ordered". As a matter of fact, it was. Its more glamourous hotel-menu name, Salisbury steak, harks back to the end-of-the-century London physician Dr. J. H. Salisbury, who invented a regimen based on broiled, lean, minced beef, three times a day. Nowadays, alas, some American children are unconsciously such fans of Dr. Salisbury's diet that they will eat nothing else. One mother has described it as "the daily grind".
A bit about my recipe: After that writeup, I found it disappointing that this bible of cooking did not publish a recipe for Salisbury steak. And, neither did any of my other source books of that early 1970's period: Better Homes & Gardens, Betty Crocker or Family Circle. I was on my own, and, while I relied on my memories of the Salisbury steak I ate at the diners of my youth, I wanted mine to be a step above an oval-shaped ground-beef patty with canned gravy drizzled on top.
A bit about grinding meat: The thankless task of mincing meat by hand started in ancient times. Karl Drais, a German aristocrat, is credited with inventing the cast-iron, hand-crank meat grinder in 1785. This portable appliance made it easy for savvy cooks to take advantage of its economic, health and taste benefits: 1) Ground meat feeds more people. 2) Grinding meat makes tough, lesser expensive, cuts of meat more palatable and easier to digest. 3) Grinding and combining various types of meat together, in this case, steak and pork, produces a concoction full of beefy flavor with the tenderness of super-tender pork.
Nowadays, grinding meat in the food processor is super easy. Simply trim it of visible fat, cut it into chunks, and, pulse until you get the texture you want. Once you try meat ground in this manner, you will agree 100% that its shredded, "to-the-tooth" texture is far superior to the quality of even the best store-bought ground meats.
2 1/2 pounds ground London broil (sometimes labeled "bottom round steak")
1 1/2 pounds ground pork tenderloin
2 cups fresh, potato breadcrumbs (3 slices of potato bread)
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
8 ounces finely-diced yellow or sweet onion
4 tablespoons salted butter (1/2 stick)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons each: salted butter and olive oil, for frying Salisbury steaks
~Step 1. Trim the London broil and the pork tenderloin of all visible fat and cut the meat into 1" - 1 1/2" chunks/cubes. In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, grind the chunks of London broil using a series of 30-40 on-off pulses. Repeat the process with the pork.
Note: My large, 20-cup capacity, Cuisinart DLC-X Plus food processor easily grinds 3 pounds of meat in one batch. The number of batches (and pulses in each batch) required will be determined by the size and brand of your processor.
In a large mixing bowl, using your hands (it's the best way), thoroughly combine the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
~Step 2. Clean and dry the work bowl and steel blade from the food processor. Tear the bread into large pieces and place them in the work bowl fitted with the blade. Using a series of 40-50 rapid on-off pulses, process the bread to fine crumbs. You will have 2 cups of bread crumbs. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the milk. Mixture will be thick and pasty. Set aside.
~ Step 3. In a small bowl, using a fork, vigorously whisk the egg and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside.
~Step 5. In the work bowl of processor fitted with a steel blade, using a series of 12-15 rapid on-off pulses, finely-dice/mince the onions. In a 10" skillet, melt the butter. Add the onion and all of the spices. Adjust heat to saute until onion is soft, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle with your hands. Add the onion mixture to the meat mixture, and, once again, using your hands thoroughly combine.
~ Step 6. Using a kitchen scale as a measure, divide the mixture into 12 equal portions weighing about 6 1/2 ounces each. Using your hands, form each portion into a 3/4" thick, 5" long oval, placing them on a large baking pan lined with parchment paper as you work.
~ Step 7. In a 16" electric skillet, over low heat, melt the butter into the olive oil. Add the Salisbury steaks. Increase heat to 225 degrees and saute until nicely-browned on both sides and cooked through, about 6 minutes per side. Remove steaks and place back on the baking pan that has been lined with a new sheet of parchment. Set aside while preparing onion and mushroom gravy as follows:
all drippings from sauteing the Salisbury steaks
1-1 1/4 pounds yellow or sweet onions, sliced into 1/4" thick half-moon shapes
14-16 ounces crimini mushroom cups, sliced 1/4" thick
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper
1 14 1/2-ounce can beef stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 teaspoons cornstarch stirred into 4 tablespoons cold water
~Step 2. Add the beef stock, cream and Worcestershire sauce. Adjust heat to a steady simmer and cook for about 1 minute. Once the mixture is simmering, stir in the cornstarch mixture and continue to simmer until nicely thickened, about 6 minutes. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and return the Salisbury steaks to the skillet. Cover the pan and continue to cook them about 12-15 minutes, stopping to flip them over in the gravy once or twice during the cooking process.
Take you & your hungry man on a trip down memory lane...
Upscale TV-Dinner-Style Salisbury Steak & Gravy: Recipe yields 12 Salisbury steaks/12 normal servings/6 'Hungry Man' servings. To freeze Salisbury steak (like Swanson), place one or two steaks in a food storage container, divide and add gravy to the containers, seal and freeze.
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; plastic wrap; spoon; fork; 10" nonstick skillet; large spoon; kitchen scale; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; 16" electric skillet; spatula
Cook's Note: If my memory serves me correctly (and I'm pretty sure it does), back in the 1960's my Salisbury Steak served up a steaming hot chocolate brownie for dessert -- my mom always put a scoop of ice cream on top of it for me too. If you're in the market for an upscale brownie recipe to go with your TV dinner, give my recipe for ~ Chocolate Cinnamon-Orange Brownies ~ a try. It's in Categories 7 or 13. Got milk?
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)