Swiss Steak


Back in 1975 (that would be 37 years ago for the numerically-challenged) I moved to Lake Tahoe and started working as the cook for the Old Post Office Coffee Shop in Carnelian Bay.  Carnelian Bay is on the North Shore, and back then wasn’t much more than a wide spot in the road.  The Old PO was mainly a local’s hangout although the weekends and summer saw a big increase in tourists.

It was a great job for a guy in his mid-20’s.  We lived in Tahoe Vista and I either walked or hitch-hiked the three miles to work in the morning, usually smoking a joint along the way before my 4:30am shift.  (It was the ’70s.  One was expected to do things like that in the mountains…)

We had fairly extensive breakfast and lunch menus – and I had free reign to create the Daily Special every day.  One thing I came up with one snowy day was a Swiss Steak – Cube steak simmered in an onion and mushroom brown gravy and served over egg noodles.  It proved to be really popular.  So popular, that it became a weekly Daily Special.  We had a great butcher who I could call up and order anything I needed.  He’d send over the beef, I’d pound flour into it and then fry it in bacon grease. Oh, yum.

I didn’t have a recipe then, and I don’t have a recipe now.  It’s one of those things I make in my sleep.

And tonight, I decided it was time to wake up.

37 years is long enough to be making the same dish.  I went to Alton Brown for inspiration.  Alton’s website is a lot easier on this soon-to-be 60 year old body that one of those aforementioned joints of days gone by would be.  Sweet youth, indeed!

I started reading the ingredient list and he nailed me at Smoked Paprika.  I found my wake-up recipe.

Alton Brown’s Swiss Steak


  • 2 pounds beef bottom round, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or bacon drippings
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  •  (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth


Preheat the oven to 325°.

Cut the meat with the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices and season on both sides with the salt and pepper. Place the flour into a pie pan. Dredge the pieces of meat on both sides in the flour mixture. Tenderize the meat using a needling device, until each slice is 1/4-inch thick. Dredge the slices on both sides once more and set aside.

Add enough of the bacon drippings or vegetable oil to just cover the bottom of a 4 to 5-quart Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the steaks to the pan, being careful not to overcrowd. Cook until golden brown on both sides, approximately 2 minutes per side. Remove the steaks to a plate and repeat until all of the steaks have been browned.

Remove the last steaks from the pot and add the onions, garlic, and celery. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Next add the tomatoes, paprika, oregano, Worcestershire sauce and beef broth and stir to combine. Return the meat to the pot, submerging it in the liquid. Cover the pot and place it in the oven on the middle rack. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the meat is tender and falling apart.

I followed the recipe pretty close, although I only used half the meat – there are only two of us, after all, and neither of us had a case of “the munchies.”  I also cooked it uncovered in the oven for about half the time – the meat I used was already tenderized.

It was better than I expected and is going to be the new “go-to” Swiss Steak for the foreseeable future.

Thanks, Alton!

The Old Post Office is still there serving great breakfasts and lunches…