First of all, I have to say that the chunky tomato sauce was — is — very good. That's what you cook the steak in to make so-called Swiss steak. It really should be called "swissed" steak, I think. "Swissing" is apparently a process of pounding or flattening either cloth or meat to soften or tenderize it.
batte à viande or attendrisseur to make it into thin slices. The meat is going to cook in the sauce for two to even three hours anyway. It will be tender when it is served — forcément — after long, slow cooking, even if it is not very thin.
I left the steaks whole — they were something like flank steak, which, to tenderize, needs to be seared just lightly in a hot pan, or cooked "to death" by slow braising. You could make this Swiss steak recipe using what they call bœuf à bourguignon in France — in other words, stew beef. Another name for Swiss steak is "smothered steak" — which you might call bifteck à l'étouffée or estouffade de bœuf aux tomates.
So here it is: Swiss steak. Most of us probably remember it as a Swanson's TV dinner when we were growing up. It's better than that, made this way. I looked at three or four recipes, including one in the old Joy of Cooking that my mother left behind and I brought back to France. Another was Alton Brown's version. Some contain more and some contain less tomato. I like more rather than less, especially at this time of year, when the weather is often cold and dreary.
Here's a list of the vegetables I put into the pan to make the sauce: onion, garlic, celery, mushrooms, carrots, bell peppers, and crushed tomatoes (tomates concassées in French). As for spices, I put in some smoked paprika, dried oregano, bay leaves, and powdered fennel, plus a dash of Worcestershire sauce. I sprinkled the vegetables with flour as they cooked before adding broth and the tomato to make a kind of gravy or sauce for the meat to cook in. By the way, the steak was fork-tender — no need for a knife to cut it.
As I said, the sauce was delicious. It wasn't like a pasta sauce, partly because it was slightly thickened with flour. It tasted meatier than pasta sauce, and celery and peppers gave it a distinctive flavor. Oh, we debated whether to serve the Swiss steak with rice, potatoes, wheat berries, millet, or pasta. Finally, we decided just to add some chickpeas (out of a can) to the sauce at the end of the cooking time. I plan to add some okra pods and some olives, green or black, to the sauce to finish it this weekend. We ate all the steak.