Steak:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1Ž2 cup cracker crumbs (about 30 saltines)

1Ž2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1Ž2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup buttermilk

4 cube steaks (6 ounces each)

4 cups canola oil

Gravy:

3 slices bacon, sliced crosswise into 1Ž2-inch wide pieces

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

3 ounces button mushrooms (about 2/3 cup, stemmed and thinly sliced

1Ž4 teaspoon salt

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

Pinch cayenne pepper

1Ž4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons (1Ž4 stick) unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups while milk, warmed but not hot

1. Bread the steaks: Whisk the flour, cracker crumbs, garlic powder, salt and pepper together in a wide, shallow dish. Pour the buttermilk into a wide bowl. Dip each steak into the buttermilk, then dredge it through the dry ingredients, making sure both sides are evenly coated.

2. Make the gravy: Cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a medium skillet until crispy, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring often, until soft and just starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and the salt and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms release their juices, about 5 minutes. Mix in the garlic, paprika, cayenne, and black pepper, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to medium, add the butter and let it melt, stirring often. Use a wooden spoon to mix in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes, then slowly begin to add the milk a little at a time, mixing well between additions to avoid lumps. Cook until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cover, stirring occasionally, to keep the gravy warm. Just before serving, stir in the reserved bacon.

3. Fry the steaks: Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet (preferably a cast-iron one) over medium-high heat. Once the oil reaches between 350° and 375° on an instant-read thermometer, reduce the heat to medium and carefully slide the steaks into the hot oil. Fry on both sides until the coating is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel- or paper bag-lined plate to drain. Serve the steak immediately covered with the bacon gravy.

Serves 4