I recently mentioned making Swiss steak and a friend asked for the recipe.
That is a dish that is different each time I make it, because I combine ingredients I have on hand. The meat is always fork tender and delicious, but probably doesn’t always fit the definition of Swiss steak.
One would think the name comes from Switzerland, but it actually comes from the technique of tenderizing the meat by pounding or rolling, which is called “swissing” in England. In some parts of Great Britain and the United States, Swiss steak is called “smothered steak,” a term that is more appropriate for the economical entrée that I make occasionally.
Generally, the type of meat used for Swiss steak is beef rump, chuck, shoulder or round steak. Since these are tougher cuts of meat, they are tenderized before cooking.
The meat is coated with flour and browned in oil. That is done to provide depth of flavor. The flour will provide a crispy brown coating to seal the meat. Bits of the coating combine with the oil and juices of the meat to add a rich, meaty taste to the dish.
The meat is then cooked on the stovetop or in the oven with onions, bell peppers and seasonings. Some recipes call for tomatoes or mushrooms. Seasonings are usually as simple as salt and pepper.
The recipe for Swiss steak first appeared in print in England in 1915. Sylvia Lovegren’s book, “Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads,” notes the recipe appeared in print in the United States in 1924. It wasn’t until the 1940s that the recipe appeared in multiple cookbooks. Its origins were attributed to several sources, including the Pennsylvania Dutch.
One thing that is undisputed is that the dish’s popularity rose during post-World War II years, when homemakers could rarely afford the more expensive tender cuts of beef. During that time, Swiss steak was often a hearty Sunday dinner favorite.
My recipe is a starting point for making this nostalgic meal. It can use common ingredients, or one can add herbs, mushrooms, tomatoes or other spices for a unique, original recipe that is sure to be delicious.
1½-2 pounds beef boneless round or chuck steak, about 3/4-inch thick
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground mustard (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water or beef stock
1 large onion, sliced
1 large bell pepper, sliced
Mix flour, mustard, salt and pepper. Sprinkle half of the flour mixture over 1 side of beef. Pound in with meat mallet. Turn beef and pound in remaining flour mixture.
In 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook beef in oil about 10 minutes, turning once, until brown.
Add garlic to skillet. Add water or beef stock. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 1 hour 15 minutes, spooning sauce occasionally over beef, until beef is tender.
Add onion and bell pepper to skillet. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 5 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Note: I had some mushroom gravy left from another recipe. I added that with the onion and bell pepper. Canned diced tomatoes can be used in place of the water or beef stock, too.