I could not figure out how to photograph this dish so that it didn’t look like a circa-1970 cookbook photo. Fitting, since that’s where the first version of it I ever tried came from. I vividly remember that 1979 edition Betty Crocker cookbook, Betty on the cover smiling in her red sweater vest and blouse. It’s practically the only cookbook my mom ever used, and from it she made that recession-era staple, Swiss Steak. It sounded very exotic, being Swiss and all, but it was actually a really simple and clever way to take a lowly round steak and a can of tomatoes, and turn it into a hearty meal.
It’s one of those childhood comfort foods that I get inexplicable cravings for, every so often. Maybe it’s the chill in the air, but I was seriously jonesing for it all day. But, thanks to a sketchy hot water heater that rendered me unable to wash dishes, clothes, or my hair, and a dentist appointment that ran long, I had no time for a 2 hour ordeal.
Cue Alton Brown. He’s one of my go-to guys for new recipes that I can trust to taste great the first time. A quick glance at his recipe got my wheels turning, and I hacked the original 1-1/2 hour recipe down to a ridiculously fast 20 minutes. Bonus points for having every single ingredient right in my pantry.
Rather than the usual round steak which requires a long, slow braise, I opted to make ground beef patties that would pan-fry in no time at all. And because I sacrificed the long cooking time, I had to build that deep flavor some other way. Simply deglazing the pan with a bit of red wine took care of that. I also had to thicken the sauce without the benefit of time to allow the liquid to reduce. A quick roux, made right in the pan, and suddenly I had a rich thick gravy. Served over some buttered egg noodles, it garnered rave reviews from the family. I hope you’ll enjoy it too!