Dr. Salisbury, the inventor of the Salisbury Steak, had some interesting theories on food. For one, he believed vegetables produced toxins that were responsible for many health issues and recommended a consistent diet of steak and coffee to solve the problem. Not any steak though: Salisbury steak.
His namesake quickly lost its health vibe (for obvious reasons), but the dish actually became more popular as a cheap, no-frills alternative to steak. For the last few decades the dish has synonymous with cafeterias and microwaved dinners.
For me, it has such strong connotations from my childhood that I wasn’t sure I could save it in my mind or on my plate. Just bland, card-boarded meat with some vague sauce. Gloopy and grumpy. I wasn’t even sure if homemade salisbury steak was worth it.
In fact, if you Google a recipe for it, most include condensed soup cans or just pre-packaged frozen crap.
But, it turns out it can be saved with a little bit of thought and a few simple ingredients. To save it, I actually used the same technique for my NickRib sandwiches because, well, it’s delicious.
It turns out Salisbury was definitely wrong about health but completely right about comfort food. Salisbury steak can be saved. This is how.
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl mash together beef, egg, breadcrumbs, cheese, Worcestershire, and spices. Form mixture into 4 even-shaped, oblong, thin pieces.
2) Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Melt butter in the skillet and swirl it around. When melted and bubbling, add steaks and sear on both sides for 3-4 minutes until well browned. Remove steaks and transfer to 8×8 baking dish.
3) Add another 1-2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet and the sliced onions for the gravy. Turn heat down to medium and cook onions until they are soft and have taken on some color, 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4) Add flour to the onions and stir it in. Cook for a minute and then slowly add beef stock, stirring continuously. Start with two cups and if it’s too thick, add more. Bring gravy to a simmer and let simmer until it thickens a bit, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5) Pour gravy and onions over steaks in baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
Serve steaks over mashed potatoes with gravy on top and garnished with parsley.
Homemade Salisbury Steak
Making “The Steak”
Obviously nobody would be fooled into thinking this is actually steak. It’s closer to some cross between a hamburger, a meatloaf, and a meatball. All of those are good things though and this base starts with similar ingredients.
Add your ground beef to a bowl with an egg, some breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and spices.
Mix this up lightly and form the mixture into four oblong “steaks.” Basically you want them fairly thin and long. This has the advantage of being optimal for being covered in sauce later.
Add about a tablespoon of butter to a large skillet over medium-high heat and sear the steaks for 3-4 minutes per side. They will be raw on the inside, but you just want a nice crust at this point.
After the steaks sear, stick them in an 8×8 baking dish and let them rest while you make the gravy. (And preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.)
The Onion Brown Gravy
This is about as easy as a pan gravy can get. As soon as you pull your steaks out of the pan, turn the heat down to medium, add another good piece of butter, and the sliced onions. One large onion should be enough, but use two if you can only find smaller guys.
Cook these until they take on some color from the steak bits in the pan. They should soften, but not completely caramelize. They should cook for somewhere in the 6-8 minute range.
When the onions are soft, stir in the flour and cook it for a minute. Then pour in the stock slowly while stirring. Pour the stock in batches and let the gravy thicken as you pour. Stir continuously, but it shouldn’t clump really. I don’t even bother whisking mine.
You’ll need somewhere between 2-3 cups of stock to get a slightly thick gravy. It should lightly coat the back of a spoon. Season it with salt and pepper also!
Finishing the Dish
Now for the fun part. Pour the gravy over the steaks in the baking dish. Drown them.
Cover the dish with foil and bake the whole thing at 350 degrees F. for about 20 minutes. That will finish cooking the steak and keep it really tender while bringing all the flavors together.
Serving options are many, but I like the Salisbury steak over mashed potatoes. Noodles would be another option or even something like rice! As an homage to the cafeteria I was sure to cover mine in curly parsley.
Let it be known. You can save Salisbury.
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