The Geography of Swiss Steak

Many years ago at a conference for Southern fiction at Ole Miss, I took umbrage at the inclusion of Bobbie Ann Mason’s splendid novel In Country because the author is from Kentucky, which I do not consider a Southern state. Kentucky was in the middle border during the Civil War, not a member of the Confederacy, and in my book it is not Southern, nor are Missouri, West Virginia, Maryland, or Delaware.

When a family from Kentucky moved to my very small rural Mississippi town in the early 60s they were of course welcomed and quietly became members of the community. With them they brought Swiss steak, which my adolescent mind tagged as a Yankee recipe. For some reason the Swiss designation slipped right over my little provincial Southern brain, probably more because for obvious reasons Switzerland held far less significance than THE NORTH. Anything Yankee was automatically suspect, and as such Swiss steak entered the nether category Reserved for Further Observation.

“To swiss” is actually an English verb that has little to do with cooking, meaning “a calendering process for cotton fabrics that produces a smooth compact texture”. Some food writers have taken a leap of faith and declared that because the cooking process renders a tough cut of meat “smooth”, which is why beef cooked this way is “Swiss”, but the ease and appeal of beef stewed with tomatoes is world-wide.

Bread and fry thin trimmed cuts of top round until browned, drain and place in a casserole. Top with your favorite tomato  sauce, and bake at a temp until tender. Serve with buttered potatoes.

Stuffed Pork Loin

Remove sinews and most of the fat from a whole loin of pork, butterfly, and brush with corn oil seasoned with black pepper, salt and freshly-minced garlic. For the stuffing, use day-old cornbread moistened with butter and a light stock of your choice (I recommend chicken), seasoned with fresh rosemary (not too much!), thyme and basil, salt and pepper, along with finely-minced onions. Stuff the loin, assemble, truss, brush again with seasoned oil and roast on medium heat (300) until done through, (about an hour for a ten pound loin). Serve with Jezebel sauce.