Gravy can be the nemesis of the home cook, coming out lumpy, watery, too thick or flavorless. Cream of mushroom soup can help solve some of the problems when used as a base for gravy to pour over chicken-fried steak. While the dish is called chicken-fried, there's absolutely no chicken in the dish. It's made with beef, and the mushrooms add another layer of flavor to complement the beef.
You'll need pan drippings to make the gravy, so start with getting the steaks cooked. Dip the steaks into flour, then into beaten eggs, and then back into flour, bread crumbs or crushed crackers. Fry in no more than 1/2 inch of cooking oil. Place the steaks on a cookie sheet in a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven until the gravy is ready. Pour the oil out of the pan you fried them in.
Only the Soup
If you're using the mushroom soup that is ready to serve and doesn't require any dilution with milk or water, pour it into the pan you fried the steaks in. Heat until the soup is hot. Cream gravy such as that served with chicken fried steak is normally on the thin side, so the soup may be just fine by itself and not require any additional thickening. If it's too thin, let it reduce by bringing the soup up to a gentle boil.
Soup It Up
Some mushroom soups are condensed. Empty the condensed soup into a bowl and set aside. Add half a soup can full of water, milk or cream to the pan instead of the full can the directions call for. This keeps the gravy thicker. Scrape up all the browned bits and blend into the liquid over low heat. Combine the condensed soup in the bowl with a tablespoon of flour, cornstarch or tapioca flour. Whisk until incorporated into the condensed soup. Gradually stir the condensed soup mixture into the liquid in the pan. Heat while stirring constantly until the gravy thickens and bubbles. Cook two minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste.
Amp up the flavor of the gravy by adding herbs and spices. Thyme goes well with mushrooms and beef. Saute some onions to a golden brown in the pan before you add the soup. Slice up fresh mushrooms to amp up the mushroom flavor of the soup. Saute those with the onions or by themselves. Add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper for heat or paprika for color.