My chicken-fried steak recipe is pretty classic, save for the panko breading (which, for me, fries up way crispier and requires less time in the oil than the traditional flour-egg-flour situation). I’ve always felt that frying at home was never worth the mess, but when you’re cooking small-scale like this, the oil feels somehow more manageable. I like to make a classic milk gravy with some pan drippings, essentially just a cowboy's version of a béchamel. The most important ingredient here for me is the nutmeg, that deep, earthy cure-all for homesickness, because it tastes of everything good and familiar: Christmas, pumpkin pie, milk gravy. Alongside mashed potatoes and finely shaved cabbage, chicken-fried steak is comfort food for when you need comfort food most. —Eric Kim
For the chicken-fried steak katsu: Season both sides of the steak(s) with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Set up three stations for the flour, eggs (whisked with the tablespoon of milk), and panko, seasoning each with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Dip the steaks in the flour, then the eggs, then the panko, ensuring that all sides, nooks, and crannies are well coated.
In a cast-iron skillet, heat a shallow layer of vegetable oil to 350°F. Fry steaks in the oil, about 2 minutes per side (the second side may need even less) or until lightly browned. These cook up very quickly, so you can take them out as soon as the panko changes color.
For the milk gravy: Remove oil from the pan, leaving behind a tablespoon. Stir in the tablespoon of flour and cook for about a minute. Whisk in the milk; season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg; and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened into a lovely gravy.
Serve the katsu with mashed potatoes and coleslaw, smothering the plate with milk gravy. Rice is good, too, if you don't want to bother with potatoes.
Eric Kim is the Table for One columnist at Food52. Formerly the managing editor at Food Network and a PhD candidate in literature at Columbia University, he covers food, travel, and culture and lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho.