SWISS STEAK

My two grandmothers loved cooking, and the gifts they left me were some of their favorite recipes. My grandmother Pauline Naylor (my dad’s mom) left behind her Woman’s Club of Fort Worth Cook Book, a 1928 treasure, while my grandmother June Granger (Mom’s mom) kept a tidy recipe box, which she began as a young wife and mother in the 1930s, and wherein I find her neat handwriting a huge help. Determined to make Swiss Steak, a dish my late dad loved cooking, I went to the 1928 book to find the recipe his mom surely used — and found its instructions alarmingly sparse. Essentially it reads: “Select a nice veal round steak two inches thick, pound into this one cup flour, brown on both sides in hot lard. Let remain in frying pan and place on top one finely chopped onion, one can tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add two cups of water, simmer over slow fire until done.” But when I combined that recipe with my other grandmother’s meticulous, printed Swiss Steak recipe, I came up with a better vision for the final product. My own additions include red and green bell pepper, fresh garlic, celery, paprika, and oregano. Using a Dutch oven for preparation, I could let it cook slowly in the oven and not worry about stirring. The results were even better than I’d dreamed. It’s some of the best comfort cast iron can provide. I think both grandmothers would be pleased.
Serves 4 to 6
  • 2 pounds beef bottom round, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • ½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 ½ to 3 cups beef broth, divided use
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Fresh oregano or Italian parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Swiss+Steak+2.jpg Slice steak along the grain into 1/2-inch thick pieces. Combine salt and pepper with flour in a shallow bowl and dredge meat slices into seasoned flour mixture. Pound steak with a textured mallet until each slice is 1/4-inch thick. Dredge slices in seasoned flour again and set aside. Add a little vegetable oil to just cover the bottom of a 4 to 5-quart Dutch oven and turn heat to medium-high.  When oil is hot, add steak slices to pan, being careful not to overcrowd. Brown steak, approximately 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate, repeating till all slices are browned. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, and celery to pan with a little more oil. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. If mixture becomes dry, add just enough beef broth to keep vegetables from sticking to pan. Next add the tomatoes, paprika, oregano, Worcestershire sauce and beef broth and stir to combine. Return the meat to the pot, submerging it in the liquid, add more broth if needed. Cover pot, place it in oven on middle rack, and cook 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until steak is falling-apart tender.  Serve over noodles, rice or with buttered, crusty French bread and a green salad.

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