14 December 2018

“Swiss” steak

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.

You could cook many meats and even vegetables this way. Okra, for example, or green beans. Actually, in this recipe, I'm not sure why the steak needs to be pounded with a 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.

Again, I'm not sure why the steak is dredged in flour before cooking. I did that, but in the frying pan the flour didn't adhere to the meat. It sort of peeled off. It really serves as a thickener for the sauce the meat cooks in. If I made this again, I'd skip the dredging in flour and just sprinkle flour on the vegetables in the frying pan before pouring in crushed or diced tomato, with the juice, and putting the seared steak into the sauce.

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.


  1. Looks so yummy! I guess the crushed tomatoes are your own tomates du jardin. Being a rice man, that's what I'll have your Swiss steak with. Bon appétit!

    1. The tomates concassées came from the supermarket and are Heinz brand sold in a brique (a carton). They are 100% tomato, with no additives. They are a good product. All our tomatoes were made into either sauce or concentré. I wanted chunks. Look for diced or crushed tomatoes.

    2. Thanks for the California photos you sent yesterday...

    3. It looks like the photos date back to late March or early April 2000. If I recall correctly, it might be that year I flew directly to S.F., to spend a few days with you and Walt, before flying to S.C. Was it also that year I had lunch with Walt at a Japanese restaurant in S.F.? He might remember the date!

  2. Looks sounds/great Ken...(I often do a version of this...)

  3. Typo,I mean...looks/sounds great!

  4. "Swanson's TV dinner"...that is so funny because it's so true. Ah the early 1960s days of sitting in front of the black and white TV with our trays watching "Lost in Space." But I digress, I can see okra going with that steak quite well.

  5. That looks very good, and the sauce seems like a veg stew. Good cold-weather fare.


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