Swiss Steak with Tomato Gravy
The point of Swiss steak is to transform a tough, inexpensive cut of meat into a delicate meal so tender you can almost eat it with a spoon. Many recipes called for tenderizing the meat by pounding it before cooking, but we know from experience that pounding meat does nothing to tenderize it. Instead we relied on a slow braise to create the ideal texture. To flavor the Swiss steak gravy, we found a combination of sautéed onions, diced tomatoes, and sundried tomatoes was ideal.
Serves 6 to 8
Top blade-roast may also be labeled chuck roast first cut, top chuck roast, flat iron roast, or simply blade roast. Use low-sodium chicken broth or the gravy will be too salty.
1 (3 1/2-to 4-pound) boneless top blade roast (see note)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, halved and sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, rinsed, patted dry, and minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1. BUTCHER ROAST Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Following photos at left, cut roast crosswise into quarters and remove line of gristle to yield 8 steaks.
2. BROWN STEAKS Pat steaks dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat just until smoking. Brown 4 steaks, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and repeat with remaining oil and steaks.
3. ADD AROMATICS Add onion to empty pot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, tomato paste, and flour and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in diced tomatoes and broth and bring to boil.
4. BRAISE STEAKS Return steaks and any accumulated juices to pan. Transfer to oven and braise, covered, until steaks are fork-tender, about 2 hours. Transfer steaks to platter, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes. Skim fat from sauce. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over steaks. Serve.
Top blade roast, a shoulder cut with great flavor, has a pesky line of gristle that runs horizontally through the center. Follow these simple steps to remove it and cut perfect Swiss steaks.
1. Place roast on cutting board and cut crosswise into four even pieces.
2. One piece at a time, turn meat on its side to expose the line of gristle that runs through its center.
3. Remove by slicing through meat on either side of gristle to yield two "steaks." Repeat with remaining pieces of blade roast to yield a total of eight steaks.
Our Swiss Steak with Tomato Gravy bucks tradition by skipping the “swissing,” or pounding, of the meat. Why? Because it did nothing to tenderize it. The only way to tenderize a tough piece of meat is to physically shorten the muscle fibers. Consider cube steak. Cut from the round, cube steak is naturally tough. That’s why the individual round steaks are fed through a machine that “cubes” the meat at multiple angles with needle-like blades. The blades sever the muscle fibers, rendering tough meat tender. Pounding meat only compresses the muscle fibers, ensuring a consistent thickness.