Fast and Cheap: Cube Steak Sandwiches

| March 18, 2010 | 1 Comment
  • 1 Comment

steak sandwich

About a million years ago, when I was waitressing my way through college, I worked at a prime rib house. The name of the restaurant sounded more like a strip club than a steak joint — I kid you not, it was The Gentleman’s Choice. We were known for our prime cuts of beef plus a very decent bar. Our signature dish was, obviously, prime rib. But those thick slabs of beef were always a bit of a turn off for me. I was happy to avoid the meat overload with au jus and a baked potato side dish in favor of the simpler steak sandwich. While the prime rib plates seemed excessive for my tastes, the sandwich offered great beef flavor but in a crusty bun (and I really love the crunch). Since that time, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for a good steak sandwich.

Now although the sandwich from The Gentleman’s Choice is my Platonic ideal, I can very rarely even try to duplicate it as the main ingredient is thinly sliced prime rib — something only occasionally available at my house the day after Christmas. I’m also not one to make roast beef very often (actually, never). So a couple of years ago, after watching a Barefoot Contessa episode where Ina Garten roasted an enormous (and very expensive) filet of beef (which is essentially one large filet mignon) for her steak sandwich lunch, I went to the butcher feeling completely depressed. I wanted my own hearty steak sandwich, but knew that tenderloin and prime rib decadence wasn’t in the cards for me as I didn’t have Ina’s budget. After chatting with the butcher about my dilemma, he came up with a solution: cube steak.

seasoning cube steak

Yes, this 1950s staple is my route to affordable steak sandwich success. Made from either the top or bottom round, cube steak undergoes a serious pounding that helps tenderize it into submission. So, although you start off with a chewier piece of meat than the upmarket prime rib roast or tenderloin, you end up with something that works beautifully when pressed into a bun. As a busy mom, I also love that this dish takes less than 10 minutes to make.

Since my discovery, I’ve made various iterations of the steak sandwich, topping it with everything from cheese and onions for a mock Philly cheese steak, to mushrooms, onions and gravy for unadulterated comfort food. Sure, I would still love a thinly-sliced prime rib sandwich every now and again, but between Christmases, I’m happy to stick with the more inexpensive variety.

Comforting Cube Steak Sandwich

Comforting Cube Steak Sandwich

Makes: 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:
8 slices of cube steak
1 large onion thinly sliced
1 cup brown or white mushrooms thinly sliced
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup beer, wine or broth
More salt and pepper to taste
4 crunchy rolls
Horseradish and mayonnaise (optional)

Preparation:
1. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the meat.
2. Place flour on a flat plate and then add the remaining seasonings to the flour.
3. Dredge the meat in the flour and then set aside.
4. Heat the 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp oil in a large pan (I like to use my cast iron). When it bubbles and the pan is not, lay half the meat into the pan. Cook on each side for 2-3 minutes, or until done.
5. Remove meat from the pan and then add the remaining butter and oil, repeat step #4 and then remove the meat from the pan.
6. Add the onions and Worcestershire sauce to the pan along with extra oil if needed and sauté until soft. Add the sliced mushrooms and continue to sauté until they are soft and integrated into the onions. Remove vegetables from the pan.
7. Lower the heat and then add the beer, wine or broth to the pan, scraping up everything on the bottom of the pan. Because the meat was dredged in flour you should be able to make a nice gravy from the pan drippings, but if the gravy is too thin, make a slurry with some flour and more wine or beer and add to sauce to thicken.
8. Slice rolls (you can preheat these if you like) and then place two cooked cube steaks on each, topping with onions, mushrooms and gravy. Serve with a slather of some mayonnaise mixed with horseradish if desired.

Mock Philly Cheese Steak

If you’re interested in a sandwich that’s more like a Philly cheese steak, just omit the mushrooms and add some sliced peppers to the pan instead. Also, instead of making gravy just top the sandwich with cheese sauce (recipe below).

Makes: 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:
8 slices of cube steak
1 large onion thinly sliced
1 large red pepper thinly sliced
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup cheese sauce (see recipe below)
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
More salt and pepper to taste
4 crunchy rolls

Preparation:
1. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the meat and then marinade in Worcestershire sauce for at least five minutes.
2. Heat the 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp oil in a large pan (I like to use my cast iron). When it bubbles and the pan is not, lay half the meat into the pan. Cook on each side for 2-3 minutes, or until done.
3. Remove meat from the pan and then add the remaining butter and oil, repeat step #2 and then remove the meat from the pan.
4. Add the onions to the pan along with Worcestershire sauce from the marinade. Add extra oil if needed and sauté until soft. Add the sliced peppers and continue to sauté until they are soft and integrated into the onions. Remove vegetables from the pan.
5. Meanwhile, make your cheese sauce (recipe below).
6. Slice rolls (you can preheat these if you like) and then place two cooked cube steaks on each, topping with onions and peppers. Slather on some cheese sauce and serve.

Cheese Sauce

Makes:
a little over 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup whole or 2% warmed milk
1 cup grated cheese (mild cheddar, provolone, Swiss, Gruyere, American, a mix of each or whatever you like)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
1. Heat butter in a medium sauce pan.
2. When butter start to bubble, add in the flour and mix to create a roux.
3. Slowly add in the milk and whisk to incorporate.
4. Turn off the heat and mix in the cheese. It should melt in nicely.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Category: Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, economy and food costs, kids and family, recipes

About the Author ()

I am a writer, editor, mother of twins, and enthusiastic home cook. I was raised by an Italian-American mother who, in the 1970s, grew her own basil (because she couldn’t find any in the local grocery stores), zucchini (for those delicious flowers), and tomatoes (because the ones in the store tasted like “a potato”). My mom taught us to love all kinds of food and revere high-quality ingredients. I am now trying to follow in my mother’s footsteps and am on a mission to help my daughters become adventurous eaters who have a healthy respect for seasonal food raised locally. My daughters and I grow vegetables and go to the farmers’ market. We also love to shop at Piedmont Grocery and Trader Joe’s. When I’m not hanging out with my daughters or cooking, I like to contribute to cookbooks (including Williams-Sonoma’s Food Made Fast and Foods of the World series), work as an editor, and write about food for Bay Area Bites and Denise's Kitchen. My food inspirations are M.F.K Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters — three fabulous women who encompass everything I love about food.
  • sharonchambers

    Needed a good recipe for a cube steak sandwich for my picky husband. This recipe was wonderful!!! Only thing I had to omit were the onions-he gets an upset stomach. I made the sauce with mushrooms, and used beef broth instead of wine, as per your suggestion. Wow, it was delicious!!! Melted a slice of cheddar on each steak, then slathered the mushroom sauce on top, sandwiched between two slices of sourdough. Yum!!!!! Thank you.