So I am sitting at a features editors’ convention in Arizona in the early 1990s and there is a segment where various editors from around the country present their best story ideas. And there, on a big projector screen, pops up the absolute best idea I had ever seen to date and still to this day. It was brilliant in its simplicity. The editor, Susan Leathers, asked her readers: What do you do with cream of mushroom soup?
Susan, who it just happens is now the editor of the Brentwood Home Page, hit an extremely important nail on the head with that idea because it doesn’t matter what part of the country you’re from, if you don’t have at least three or four recipes featuring cream of mushroom soup then I don’t think you spend much time in the kitchen.
I am probably one of the few people who actually ate cream of mushroom soup as, well, soup. That’s because my mother didn’t cook and since the can said “soup” on it, it didn’t occur to her that there was anything else to do with it but heat it up and pour it in a bowl.
Cream of mushroom soup is practically required for any casserole you make in the South. Either that or cream of chicken soup. Sometimes cream of celery weasels its way in. Some outsiders may turn up their nose at the notion, but we all notice who’s coming back for seconds.
One of the best and highest uses for cream of mushroom soup is in country fried steak with mushroom gravy. The boys absolutely lapped this up the other night. And my cheap self loves that you can make an absolutely lip-smacking meal, if I do say so myself (which I do), for probably less than six bucks.
Country fried steak with mushroom gravy
1 pound cube steak
Freshly ground pepper
8 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons marsala
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 tablespoons minced dried onion
¼ to ½ cup water to thin sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Rub a liberal amount of soy sauce into both sides of the cube steaks and let sit for 20 minutes. Put about a cup of flour into a sturdy plastic bag and add a liberal sprinkling of pepper. Add the cube steaks to the bag and shake to flour.
Heat about a ½ inch of oil in a skillet and fry the cube steaks until they’re well browned on both sides. Remove steaks and add mushrooms. Saute until mushrooms are brown and then add marsala, reducing it to a thick glaze. Add cream of mushroom soup and minced dried onion. Stir and add enough water to thin out the sauce if it is too thick. Season the sauce with additional salt and pepper and add steaks back to pan, coating them liberally with the sauce.