While many people were starting their diets on January 1st or eating black eyed peas and greens, we were indulging in our favorite celebratory meal– Steak Frites. Today I am celebrating again, and rather than sharing just one recipe with you today, I’d like to do the whole fantastic meal– in honor of releasing my cookbook!
Today’s the day I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
Now you can either download the digital version of the book, or buy the printed one to keep in your kitchen. It’s full of fun stories about food and travel and life in Europe, as well as lots of beautiful photos. I think you will really love it. And it’s on sale right now– 30% off of the digital version with the code AtTheTable, and last time I checked on amazon, it’s 38% the printed copy off over there! (The amazon price changes without notice, so you may have to hurry on that one.)
Now, back to the food… I made this meal for the first time last summer. We had been walking around town on a Saturday afternoon, and I saw a Steak Frites dinner on the menu in the window of a local wine bar. Immediately, the craving for this meal we had enjoyed many times in France and Belgium washed over me. I looked at the price: £20 per plate. Hmmm. My craving was strong, but not £60 (+wine)– strong. No. I knew I could make it myself, even if I had never deep-fried much of anything before. Suddenly our plans for that evening took shape– I would be converting Mama’s Bistro to Bistro de Maman.
Jeff went to the supermarket to pick up three steaks, a bottle of red wine and some big, starchy potatoes. I set about researching making crispy fries, and putting together a bleu cheese butter. Amelia set forth turning our conservatory into a little French cafe, lighting candles and working on menus. I love it when a meal turns into a real event.
To be honest, I had a little trepidation about the fries. This was a very important part of the meal, and I wanted them super crispy on the outside, and creamy in the middle. In other words, I wanted them to be perfect.Well, they were. I (sincerely) don’t like to brag. But I think they were the best fries I had ever eaten. Our local frites connoisseur, Amelia, agreed. Now we were hooked.
The meal that night was so good and so much fun, that I knew how I wanted to ring in the New Year. This is party food. Making fries (to me) seems like a lot more effort than I would go through for a regular meal, but for a celebration of any kind, it’s so worth it. (And maybe, just maybe, I now have a deep fryer on my wishlist. You know, so I can party more often.)
OK, let’s get down to cooking.
What You’ll Need:
- 1 sirloin or rump (or other steak with a nice amount of fat) per person
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee
- freshly ground pepper
- sea salt
- 1 large baking potato per person
- beef tallow or lard, for deep-frying (here’s why you want to use it, too– besides being delicious)
- in terms of equipment, you’ll need a grill pan, a pot for frying, paper towels, and a candy thermometer
What to Do:
- Peel the potatoes and slice lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick sticks. Soak in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes.
- Make the Bleu Cheese Compound Butter (recipe below), if using.
- In a deep-fryer or a pot, heat 3 inches of lard or tallow to 325°. Drain the potatoes and dry them well on a clean kitchen towel. Divide the potatoes into batches (1 potato per batch) and fry each batch until they begin to look just slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried potatoes to paper towels to drain.
- Put the grill pan over medium-high heat. Season the steaks with salt and pepper, and melt some butter in the pan. When it’s really hot, put your steaks on. (Only two at a time, or else it will drop the temperature too much.) Don’t move them around, just let them sit there, for about 5 minutes for 1-inch thick. Flip and cook for another 4 minutes for medium-rare. I take the time to also sear the fat cap on one side of the steak– I just hold it on its side with tongs until the fat is golden and tasty-looking.
- Reheat the frying fat to 375°. This is the part where you get the outsides of the fries nice and crispy. Fry the potatoes until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the frites to fresh paper towels to drain. They should finish about the same time as the steaks. If they are done a little earlier, then just put them on a pan in a hot oven (400º F) until you are ready to serve them. Don’t forget to salt them.
Serve the steaks with garlic butter or bleu cheese compound butter (recipe below) and a green salad with some sharper greens like arugula or mustard. I like to add radicchio or some other bitter elements, as well. This will help you handle the fat in this meal better. Dress it with a classic French Vinaigrette (recipe below). I also like to top the salad with slices of red onion, but I always soak the sliced onions first in salted water to diminish their strength a little (and save our breath a lot).
Bleu Cheese Compound Butter
Compound butter is one of those “secret weapons” I try to have in the fridge or freezer at all times. I first came across it at a favorite restaurant, where they were serving it just to spread on their homemade bread. I love to add a pat to steak, and this bleu cheese version is a must for Steak Frites. I like to put it on steamed vegetables, and it works as a nice little butter sauce on just about anything. You could also add it to the pan before sautéing mushrooms, or even making scrambled eggs. This is one of those things that has as many uses as you can think of! The variations on this theme are also unlimited.
This is just one version, and you can switch up the herbs, seasonings and acids to make new combinations.
- 1/2 lb. butter at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons bleu cheese, like roquefort or stilton
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives, optional
What to Do:
- Put all ingredients into a bowl, and whisk, until everything is well blended. Drop several spoonfuls onto parchment paper and flatten with the back of a spoon, and put in the fridge to firm up in time to use on your steak. The rest you can store for future use.
- You can store this by putting the butter in a glass container, or by rolling it into a log in parchment paper, cutting slices off when you need it. It will keep for about two weeks in the fridge.
Classic French Vinaigrette
This vinaigrette is made at least weekly in our house. It’s the perfect quick dressing for a fresh green salad (preferably with very thinly sliced radishes in it) and to marinate warm, boiled leeks for a wonderful side dish. (Makes about 1/3 cup)
What You’ll Need
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1/2 small shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 3- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- you will need an immersion blender or a regular blender
What to Do:
- Put all ingredients into the cylinder work bowl
for an immersion blender and process until creamy. (You can do this in a standard blender, as well– but will need to double or triple the recipe so there is enough bulk to flow around the blades properly.)
- Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
Store in a tightly sealed glass bottle in the fridge– it will last for up to a week.
Now, put on some music. Assemble your meal– steak topped with compound butter, super-crisp fries, your lovely salad. Bring out some ketchup, and maybe some mayonnaise, if that is how you like your fries. Sit down, take your time, pour a glass or two of wine, and enjoy your very fine meal. Make it a celebration. Bon appetite!
Oh! And for more memorably delicious moments at your table, definitely check out my cookbook!