When I was a young Air Force Russian language student at Indiana University nearly a half-century ago, I enjoyed visiting a restaurant called The Gables that, besides being on the site of the former Book Nook where Hoagy Carmichael claimed to have written his classic ballad “Stardust,” served a delicious Salisbury steak at a price consistent with my $100 a month airman’s pay. At this remove I can honestly say that I do not remember what it tasted like but I have had a soft spot for Salisbury steak ever since. The dish itself was invented in 1888 by Dr. J. H. Salisbury, a physician from Cortland County NY, between Binghamton and Syracuse, who was an early promoter of a low carbohydrate diet—in fact he recommended eating his steak three times a day. During the World War I mania to remove German names from common items, hamburger steak was often called Salisbury steak. Today, while the US Department of Agriculture mandates that hamburger steak be made of 100% skeletal beef, i.e. no organ meat, commercially prepared Salisbury steak may by law contain up to 25% pork, beef heart meat, and up to 30% fat. This, if nothing else, should convince you of the wisdom of making it from scratch.
Note: to make this recipe gluten-free use corn flakes chopped in the food processor in place of bread crumbs and rice flour instead of wheat flour.
Onion 1 medium, about 100 grams, divided use
Mushrooms 6 medium, about 140 grams
Garlic 1 large clove, about 10 grams
Butter and/or oil about 30 grams (2 Tablespoons) divided use
Ground beef 340 grams (12 ounces)
Worcestershire sauce 30 milliliters (2 Tablespoons), or to taste
Bread crumbs 30 grams (¼ cup)
Parsley 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon) fresh or dried
Salt and pepper to taste
Flour 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon)
Beef stock about 250 milliliters (1 cup)
Thyme leaves 2 milliliters (¼ teaspoon) fresh or dried
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375° (350° for convection).
Peel the onion and cut into two pieces through the root. Thinly slice one half and set aside. Coarsely chop the other half and put into a food processor. Separate the mushroom stems from the caps. Slice the caps thinly and set aside. Put the garlic and mushroom stems into the food processor with the onion and mince finely. Sauté the minced mushrooms and vegetables in a small amount of butter until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms fragrant. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl combine beef with cooled onion mixture, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, and parsley. Form into two oblong rolls about the size and shape of a baking potato then flatten them into 1 centimeter (½ inch) thick. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Heat about 15 grams (1 Tablespoon) of butter or 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon) of oil (or a combination of the two) in a heavy cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and brown the patties for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove to the prepared sheet pan and place in the oven to cook to an internal temperature of 70°C (160°F), about 15 minutes.
Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium, adjust the fat to about 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon), and sauté the sliced onions until softened. Add the sliced mushroom caps and sauté until lightly browned. Sprinkle on the flour and cook for about minute, stirring constantly. Slowly add the stock a bit at a time stirring constantly. Be sure to let each addition come to a boil before adding the next otherwise you will not know just how think the gravy is becoming. Keep adding stock until the gravy is the consistency you like. Stir in the dried thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the steaks with mashed potatoes and the gravy, accompanied by a green salad or vegetable.