Challenging Wine Pairing: Chicken Fried Steak



By LaGayle ~ December 22nd, 2009.

Chicken Fried SteakChicken Fried Steak is a southern dish that is believed to have been adapted by Texans through the influence of German immigrants and their wiener schnitzel. An inexpensive cut of meat such as cube steak or tenderized round steak is dipped in an egg and milk mixture and dredged through flour before being cooked in hot oil.

According to FoodTimeline.org, the history of chicken fried steak (aka country fried steak) is a fabulous example of cultural diversity, regional pride and just plain confusion. Why? Because there are as many names/recipes for this dish as people who claim they know how it started. That’s part of what makes the study of food history so interesting.

“Chicken-fried steak…Particularly popular in the South and Midwest, this dish is said to have been created to use inexpensive beef.” –Food Lover’s Companion, 3rd edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst

Whatever its origin and purpose, it is the heart of a great southern meal—not necessarily the healthiest—but certainly delicious for an occasional meal.

Now you ask…wine and chicken fried steak??? I say, “Why not?” While either beer or iced tea might be the first beverages to come to mind when thinking about a beverage to pair with chicken fried steak, I was surprised to find some interesting wine recommendations. My favorite reference book is What to Drink with What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, a book John reviewed in October. If you can believe it, one of the recommendations to enjoy with this dish is rosé Champagne (or rosé sparkling wine)! I thought, “Now that sounds like fun.” So I excitedly planned the menu which included a green salad, chicken fried steak with cream gravy, sweet potato fries, bacon wrapped seasoned green beans, and flaky buttermilk biscuits, and then rushed to the store to make my wine selections.

2006 Sagelands Vineyard Four Corners Cabernet Sauvignon and NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de NoirsWith this very basic meal, we did a blind tasting of the NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Noirs and the 2006 Sagelands Vineyard Four Corners Cabernet Sauvignon. And by blind tasting, I mean that the other three Wine Peeps did not know what the two wines were; though they obviously could tell that we were having one red wine and one rosé sparkling wine. Since the meal was an inexpensive one, I wanted to be sure that the wines were at an equally inexpensive price point, and both of these fit that criterion.

While we enjoyed both wines, we all thought that the Sagelands Cab paired better with the chicken fried steak; however, on its own, we preferred the Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Noirs.

Bon Appétit!

2006 Sagelands Four Corners Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley, Washington): Deep ruby red with oak, earth, and raspberry on the nose. Tobacco, black plums, and licorice come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with lively acidity, medium tannins, and a long, but bitter, finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle), $12.19 (on sale $8.99); Available elsewhere, $11 to $16

NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Noirs (Columbia Valley, Washington): Pale salmon in color. Quite aromatic with strawberry, apricot, and yeast aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a long finish. A nice, refreshing bubbly.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle), $13.19 (on sale $7.99); Available elsewhere, $8 to $15


Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Challenging Wine Pairing, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Food & Wine, Red Wine, Sparkling Wine, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Kevin Glowacki | December 22nd, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Being a native Texan, I love a good chicken fried steak. I’ll have to take up this challenge myself. I think the sparkler would have worked better on the steak sans gravy, but will have to add that as an element to the experiment.

  2. Mike Veseth | December 22nd, 2009 at 9:40 am

    What an interesting challenge! Since the dish has German roots, I think I’d try to match it with a German-style wine, which points me toward a Riesling. But you’d need something pretty sturdy to stand up to the gravy. That suggests an Alsatian Riesling to me, maybe Trimbach, which has good power and acidity. Now another challenge: finding a restaurant that has chicken fried steak on the menu and a good wine list, too.
    Mike Veseth

  3. Kori | December 22nd, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Kevin,
    Trying the steak sans gravy with the sparkler would be a good experiment, but I can’t imagine having chicken fried steak without gravy. But maybe that’s just me. :) I’d love to hear how the challenge comes out for you.

    Mike,
    Great suggestion. We’ll have to try an Alsatian Riesling next time. But you are exactly right, the ultimate challenge would be find a restaurant that serves chicken fried steak and has a good wine list. Let me know if you find one.

    Cheers!

  4. Las Rocas Source | February 27th, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Mmm, chicken-fried steak. What a delicious conundrum! Well, conventional wisdom calls for serving a “big” tannic wine with red meats, but I think full flavor is more important, and smoother reds do just as well as those with upfront tannins like Cabernot and Merlot. In fact, a good Garnacha, like Las Rocas, can work well with just about any kind of meal — the flavors are bold enough to standup to juicy steaks but also behaved enough to not overpower poultry and fish such as salmon. It’s a great complement to meals with multiple choice courses…or perhaps chicken-fried steak.

  5. Kori | February 27th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    LRC,
    Thanks for the pairing suggestion. We have had Las Rocas a number of times and really enjoy it. We’ll have to try it with our chicken fried steak sometime. Cheers!

  6. Rebecca Murphy | May 11th, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Beef steak has always been my all time favorite dish and i am always looking for some new recipes that has steak as the main ingredient..*’

  7. Kori | May 11th, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Rebecca,
    Glad to hear you are a steak fan. As a Texas girl, I love my steak dishes too. We will be adding a recipe section to our site later this year. Cheers!

  8. Rick | May 12th, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    though I don’t think it has a wine list at all, I would recommend Hoover’s Beef Palace in Templeton CA–the next time you’re in Paso wine country. amazing breakfasts, and great local color. you could get some of the CFS to go, and sample it with some wine selections from the 200+ wineries nearby!

    I thought that the Steelhead Diner in Seattle might carry CFS, but didn’t see it on their menu. It’s a good place to eat, though–with a very good NW wine list.

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