Comfort Food: Salisbury Steak; Paleoish

I don’t know about you, but besides meatloaf & gravy, one of the classic comfort foods I’ve missed from time to time is Salisbury steak. So that’s what I put together last night, trying to make it as simple as possible. Still, I wouldn’t call it particularly modest and simple, as I’ve been blogging about in the food category lately.

I adapted this recipe in terms of both Paleoish as well as for one lb of (grassfed) ground beef instead of two. Of course, mainly it’s the breadcrumbs and flour for the roux that must go. The one ingredient I lacked was the mushrooms, so I went without that as well.

In place of fresh parsley, I used lots of dry to soak up some of the moisture. Still, the meat mixture was pretty doughy, so I employed a couple of other tricks. First, I formed the patties with a fork while still in the bowl. Then I gently slid them from the bowl to the pan. Second, I used an oversize glass lid to cover the pan. Excess moisture condenses on the lid and slides down and out of the pan. Clever. Be very careful not to have them break apart when you turn them.

The other mod was that instead of dumping the butter and tallow to begin anew for the gravy, I simply deglazed the pan with the existing fat with about 1/2 cup red wine and reduced that to a syrup before adding the beef stock, bringing it to a boil reducing by about 1/3 to concentrate flavor, and then about 1 tsp of potato starch in a slurry of cold stock to thicken. Then you return the patties to the gravy and into the oven it goes, 375 for 45. Click for the hi-res.

Salisbury Steak
Salisbury Steak

While it might have been nice to have some mashed taters, I knew very well that with the size of that burger and the fattiness of the sauce, that I’d probably feel like crap if I did, so it was some veggies stir fried in coconut oil instead.


Turns out that was exactly the right call because I felt nice & full, very satisfied, and with none of the sluggishness that can happen if I combine too many potatoes with too big of a meal.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. pfw on March 7, 2011 at 09:41

    “In place of fresh parsley, I used lots of dry to soak up some of the moisture.”

    I’m not much of a cook so I don’t know how dumb a question this is, but is “dry” some ingredient I should know about or are you missing a noun?

    • Richard Nikoley on March 7, 2011 at 09:42

      dry parsley.

      • pfw on March 8, 2011 at 05:51

        Oh, dur.

        And maybe that’s why I’m not much of a cook.

  2. Lute Nikoley on March 7, 2011 at 09:55

    One of my favorites, but with that delicious sauce/gravy I am not sure I could do without the mashed taters.
    Another one that is really good cooked in the sauce/gravy is swiss steak, you might want to do that paleo style.

  3. Steve on March 7, 2011 at 12:53


    First, great blog. It’s really been a wealth of information (and entertainment!).

    I just had two quick questions: 1) is the problem with the potatoes new? I thought I read some blog posts in the past that involved mashed potatoes with plenty of cream alongside meat with a fatty sauce. Do you think it’s a question of finding the upper boundary of fat/carb compatibility, or something else?

    2) Rather unrelated to the blog, but I’ve never been a big fan of eating the fat on the outside of a steak (or the thick beads inside, in the case of a ribeye). I’m afraid by not doing so, I’m missing out on nutrients and satiety. Do you think this is a problem? Could I work around it by cooking the steak in plenty of tallow, and using it in the sauce like you do? For whatever reason, I’m really picky about the fat on a steak; I’m usually fine with it on short ribs or brisket, etc, lamb, pork, etc. I still may not eat all of it, but I can eat a good amount of it. Maybe I’m just a total head case after all…

    Thanks for any help,

    • Richard Nikoley on March 7, 2011 at 14:21


      It just depends. Usually in those cases you’re talking some lean meat like a filet, chicken, something like that and not 12oz fatty ground beef. I just felt that potatoes would have put me over the top. I have gotten to where when I have vegetables to any big extent with a meal it feels better to eat smaller. When I eat big, it’s going to be 90% meat and not a lot of added fat.

      2) No big. It depends for me, too. Sometimes it’s extra tasty, sometimes not. It’s easy to get fat if you want it, so don’t sweat it.

  4. Kelly on March 7, 2011 at 13:44

    Richard –

    You may have already tried this, but I found that mixing some potato starch into the eggs – and beating until the lumps go away – makes a pretty good panade in meatballs and meatloaf. I’m sorry I can’t quantify how much potato starch per egg I used – I just threw a little bit in to see how it would work (somewhere between 1 tsp and 1 Tbsp per egg). That would make it a little easier to work with the patties while maintaining good texture.

  5. dr. gabriella kadar on March 7, 2011 at 19:18

    Recently I got into making meatloaves. Ground lamb/goat/beef combo for the meat. Added hotpepper cream (Italian stuff in a jar) to the meat mix along with garlic paste and onion powder, herbs etc.. Rolled it around hard boiled eggs and feta cheese chunks. Then studded the top of the meatloaf with green olives and pickled Italian pepperoncini and strips of pickled red pepper. A twist on what my friends make which is they add ketchup which just makes meatloaf too sweet.

    First I did try the potato starch, but on the second incarnation I used (what the hell), bread crumbs.

    Fantastic. It started as 5 pounds of raw meat and ended up getting ‘free-based’ by vultures to whom I am related..

    • Mike on March 8, 2011 at 09:09

      I’ve used finely crushed fried pork skins in place of bread for meatloaf with great success. The taste and texture is about the same as if I used bread crumbs.

  6. Hayduke on March 7, 2011 at 19:34

    When you deglaze a pan with red wine, how long do you usually wait to do so? I’m wondering about the temperature of then pan when the wine goes in.
    Here’s a specific scenario. We are very fond of cooking a couple strips of bacon in the cast iron pan, remove then place in a couple of NY Strips in the left over bacon fat. In a separate pot, I’ve got a mushroom sauce (Criminis + butter+ garlic+ Worchester+bacon, and sometimes bleu cheese) going. After the steaks are done, when should I deglaze the pan to add to the sauce?

    • Richard Nikoley on March 7, 2011 at 21:20

      turn the heat to low for the pour, but pour rapidly. You won’t get an explosion that way. The cold wine will quickly overcome. If that’s what you mean.

  7. John (JRM) on March 7, 2011 at 20:50

    This looks good, I’ll have to try my hand at Salisbury steak.

    You miss meatloaf? Or is it the gravy? I make meatloaf all the time and think it’s a great paleo food, but I rarely make gravy. Mostly I make the all beef meatloaf out of the Americas Test Kitchen cookbook, which is fairly involved, but I like it. I leave out the non-paleo ingredients (crushed saltines or quick oatmeal) and the gelatin and the result doesn’t seem to suffer any. I typically double the recipe for leftovers.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 7, 2011 at 21:21

      John’ did you see the link, where I made meatloaf once?

      • John (JRM) on March 8, 2011 at 05:26

        I did, and it looked good, but I was surprised that it seemed very non-traditional (and small). It didn’t seem like it would satisfy a craving for “old fashioned” meatloaf. I might have to try one along those lines sometime though.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 8, 2011 at 07:32

        I didn’t have a casserole baking dish at the time, and also, that was just for me and I ate the whole thing.

  8. Sean on March 8, 2011 at 00:53

    Richard, I’d be interested on an update about the neck pain. Is the psychosomatic treatment still working out?

    • Richard Nikoley on March 8, 2011 at 01:20


      Thanks for asking. It is a very rocky road. I am convinced it is psycho, as well as many other incidents in the past of short duration that co e to mind. Diff is, I have never heated anything serious up to now. I brush off, and as it turns out, that was helpful.

      Now, as I fight the fuck out of this, I someti,Ed get enormous chest pains of the sort that would have anyone calling 911 convinced they’re having a heart attack, I relax, drink a glass of water and it goes away.

      For whatever reason, this is not giving up easily. But when the pain is bad, luckily I have all three Sarno books. Now finished with 2 of them. I read pages and pain goes away . Comes back andk I read again, goes away again. Nights are the worst.

      Anyway, #winning. I think and hope but I have little choice. I may have been a bit exuberant at the start, but right. It will just take more time.

      • Sean on March 8, 2011 at 01:37

        Interesting and good luck with it. Please keep us posted, I think there’re a lot of old guys like me with chronic pain who have a vested interest in seeing how it resolves.

      • dr. gabriella kadar on March 8, 2011 at 03:28

        Richard, since you are not averse to pharmaceuticals for this situation and since you recognize the emotional component to the pain, you could try Zopiclone at night. It’s a short acting hypnotic but many people report that it relieves them of the sort of pain you are experiencing. At least they are able to get some reasonably restorative sleep. This drug is not an anxiolytic, it’s duration of action is 6 hours and half life is short enough that there is no hangover effect the next day. There is another drug available in the US which is similar to Zopiclone and has been tested longterm with good results.

        This medication is not recognized as helping with ‘pain’ but there are many people who report that this drug is better than a narcotic. The fact that sensory nerve sensitization due to muscle tension resulting from an emotional trigger over a pre-existing physical injury or condition is not considered when this drug has been evaluated for pain.

        And of course I’m still plugging away at you getting yourself a Mediflow pillow. If you don’t like it, send it to me. 🙂

  9. jeff borsato on March 8, 2011 at 16:58


    really enjoy the blog, especially the food pics.

    my trick for thickening sauce is something unorthodox but if you try it you might be impressed:

    use a bit of garlic powder and onion powder along w/ some djon mustard. all are natural emusifiers that act to tighten up a sauce they add a zing that a hearty beef stock-based stock can handle.

    if you are a big fan of slurry-based thickeners like potato starch, consider just going straight to the source and dumping a cooked small baby potato (10 gm carbs give or take?) as it crushes up and disolves in the sauce it will thicken without the gloppy taste you may get from a flour-based thickener.

    just my tricks. best of luck.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 8, 2011 at 17:05

      Jeff, actually I have done this with various dry powders. Most commonly, this is how I thicken Texas chili, with the chili powder, so I’m definitely on board. The reason I do more pure reductions and often don’t thicken at all, just reduce enough, is I want the pure flavor, typically of a red wine.

      With the potato starch slurry I never get a taste becaue I have to use so little of it. I always reduce to the point where quantity is an issue based on servings, so I thicken at that point. Often, it’s just a pnch or two.

  10. Karen Mangan on March 9, 2011 at 07:39

    I just made the Nourished Kitchen’s Salisbury Steak recipe, which uses a red wine/beef stock reduction in addition to saute’d onions and mushrooms. Fantastic! Do yourself a favor next time, Richard, and go to the store and buy some mushrooms and include them (I used Portabellas) As my dad used to say, “your brains will fall out”.

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