Whenever business takes me to Johnson City, TX, the ancestral home of Lyndon B Johnson, I make it a point to visit the Hill Country Cupboard for a plate of chicken-fried steak.
Chicken-fried steak, for those unfamiliar with this primitive southern American tempura, is a thin slice of beef sinew that is battered, deep-fried, and doused in a viscous white mucilage, or sauce, called “milk gravy.” The Hill Country Cupboard is an eatery of sufficient rusticity that the traditional side dishes — a perfect hemisphere of glutinous mashed potatoes and a little dish of canned green beans floating in a bacony liquid — are preserved intact from the ravages of modern culinary theory. The dish is a triumph.
Whether the Cupboard’s chef perhaps oversteps her bounds when she invents the chicken-fried steak salad — a somewhat startling creation in which the aforementioned battered beef is chopped into bite-sized hunks and presented with mealy winter tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, and ranch dressing on a bed of iceberg lettuce — is a matter for the food critics to decide. I no longer get paid to eat such things.