Blue Plate Special

  • September 09, 2020
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Diners, corner cafes, and Mom and Pop neighborhood bars and restaurants that serve down-home meals, otherwise known as “blue plate specials” may not be as numerous as they used to be, but they are still around. Thank goodness! These institutions usually go the extra mile for their specials, giving large servings and using local ingredients. When I hear the term “blue plate specials” I conjure up such meals as meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas, or smothered chicken with lots of gravy atop a mound of white rice, or better yet, stewed okra and tomatoes accompanied by braised round steak and onions! When I was growing up in St. Martinville, there was a café called Hebert’s and you could tell the day of the week by the menu for the day. The specials were noted on a large chalkboard at the entrance to the establishment. On Monday, it was usually red or white beans served with rice and a link of fresh pork sausage. Tuesday’s lunch was chicken-fried steak accompanied by either macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes (and never made from dehydrated flakes in a box). Fried chicken, potato salad, and peas and carrots was Wednesday’s offering. On Thursday it was meatballs and spaghetti or chicken stew. Friday’s special was always my favorite---fried catfish served with shrimp stew over rice, and cole slaw. Hot French bread and lots of butter was always handy, and Mrs. Hebert made some of the best pies---lemon, pecan, chocolate cream, coconut, and blackberry---I had ever tasted. Alas, Hebert’s is gone, so I ride around looking for hole-in-the-wall places that serve up meat-and-three (meat with three sides). A place in New Iberia near the St. Peter's Catholic church often offers the best barbecued pork ribs and pork chops served with rice dressing, baked beans, cole slaw, and bread pudding, all for less than $10.00. Another place I lunch is at a luncheon spot in my hometown that has a great Friday meal of fried catfish, shrimp and potato salad. When cooler weather sets in (which hopefully will be soon because I’m growing tired of this hot dry weather), my husband Rock often requests a blue plate special for our Wednesday supper. Understand that these are not for the weak of heart. These recipes are what Papa would call “truck-driver” items. CHICKEN-FRIED STEAK Makes 4 servings

  • ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound cubed beefsteaks
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons plus ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup saltine cracker crumbs
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 ¼ cups chicken broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot sauce

In a small bowl, combine one-four cup of the flour with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture evenly on both sides of the steaks. Combine the egg and two tablespoons of the milk in a shallow dish. Dip the steaks in the egg mixture, then dredge in the cracker crumbs. Heat about one-half of the oil in a large skillet to about 360 degrees. Fry the steaks in the oil over medium heat until browned, turning once. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer turning occasionally, for 15 minutes. Remove the steaks and drain on paper towels. Drain off the drippings, reserving about three tablespoons in the skillet. Add the remaining three tablespoons of the flour, stirring until smooth. Cook one minute over medium heat, stirring constantly. Gradually add the broth and the remaining one-half cup of milk. Stir constantly until the mixture is thick and bubbly. Add the Worcestershire and hot sauce, and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve with mashed potatoes. GOOD OLD MASHED POTATOES Makes about 6 servings

  • 8 medium-size red potatoes (about 3 ½ pounds), peeled and quartered
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup milk
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water to cover until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain in a colander, then return to the pan. Add the butter and milk and mash or beat with an electric mixer. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot. OLD-FASHIONED MACARONI AND CHEESE Makes about 6 servings

  • 1 (8-ounce) package elbow macaroni
  • 2 ½ cups (about 10 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • Paprika

Cook the macaroni according to package directions and drain. Layer one-third of the macaroni in a lightly greased two-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with one-third of the cheese. Repeat the procedure, and top with the remaining macaroni. Reserve the remaining cheese. Combine the milk, eggs, salt and pepper. Pour over the macaroni. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and paprika. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes before serving. CHOCOLATE PIE

  • Makes one pie to serve 6
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 baked 9-inch pastry shell
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Combine one and one-fourth cups of the sugar, the flour, and the cocoa in a heavy saucepan. Combine the milk, egg yolks, and the melted butter and beat, using a wire whisk to blend well. Gradually add the milk mixture to the sugar mixture, stirring until smooth. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Spoon into the pastry shell and set aside. Beat the egg whites and the cream of tartar at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Gradually add the remaining one-half cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form, two to four minutes. Spread the meringue over the chocolate filling. Bake at 325 degrees until lightly golden, about 20 minutes.  

hometown dinner , homemade recipes , diner recipes , chicken fried steak recipe

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