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April in Paris: Steak Frites

2012 April 24

One of my very favorite places to eat in Paris I refer to as simply “the entrecote place,” which isn’t really that far off from its real name, Le Relais de l’Entrecôte. There are a few of them, around Paris and around the world, all connected to the same family in different ways, but they all stick to the same simple formula and limited menu. Super-limited, actually. All you really get to choose is how you want your steak cooked, because that is all they serve, and something from the massive list of desserts.

First comes the salad, with walnuts and a mustardy vingarette and then mountains of perfectly cooked frites and sliced steak, cooked to order and smothered with an amazing, buttery, bright green sauce. The sauce… I can’t really describe it other than calling it “transporting” and leaving it at that. Many have attempted to recreate the magical green sauce and none have succeeded, so I’m just not going there. Instead, I have for you an very yummy shallot pan sauce.

Frites, on the other hand, I have nailed. It’s a little bit involved but oh, so worth it. I think these fries crush any pre-cooked frozen ones you can get at the grocery store and are every bit as good (if not better than!) Five Guys fries, which I hold as a French fry benchmark in DC. As long as you plan ahead a little bit, you can have them super cheap and relatively fast at home. And while I snagged a cheap reconditioned miniature deep fryer on Woot years ago, you can fry them up just as easily with a heavy pot and a candy thermometer.

Even without the green sauce, this is a perfect French bistro dinner, doable at home for two.

Steak with Shallot Pan Sauce

Serves 2

Entrecôte isn’t really a cut you see in the United States, but if you have a good (or European) butcher, you might be able to get your hands on it. Hangar steak is also common in French bistros and is usually reasonably priced.  Since the traditional entrecôte comes from the rib area, you might also have good results with a rib, rib-eye or Delmonico steak.

I’m a big fan of sauce and this makes more than enough to pour over your steak and sop up with fries.

Ingredients

2 hangar steaks, 8 ounces each, at room temperature

salt and pepper

olive oil

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

5 shallots, sliced thin

3/4 cup dry red wine (whatever you plan on drinking with dinner is fine)

1 cup beef stock

Method

Pat steaks dry with a paper towel, season with salt and pepper and brush lightly with olive oil.

Heat a large frying pan over high heat and sear steaks for about one minute on each side. Lower heat to medium-high and continue to cook for 2 to 4 minutes on each side, depending on desired doneness (hangar steak tends to get tough easily; most folks recommend not taking it beyond medium rare. Move steaks to a plate and tent with foil.

Lower heat to medium and melt half the butter (1 1/2 Tablespoons) in the pan. Add the shallots and saute until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the wine, stir to get the browned bits off the bottom of the pan and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 7 minutes. Add the beef stock and cook until shallots are very tender and the liquid is reduced by about half, at least 5 minutes, depending on desired sauce thickness. Remove from heat and whisk in butter.

Serve steaks sliced, with shallot sauce poured over the slices.

 

Perfect Frites for Two

Serves 2

This recipe is the result of several years of trial-and-error on the hunt for the perfect fries at home. It’s a little involved but definitely worth it and easily doubled or even tripled for a crowd (if you have the space and the patience). I like the rustic look and taste of leaving the skins on, but feel free to peel the potatoes if that’s how you like them. You can also cut them thicker if you like, but it may change your cooking times.

Peanut oil is great for frying but can be expensive, so I use a 50/50 peanut-vegetable oil blend.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds Russet potatoes (about two large), cut into 1/4-inch by 1/4-inch sticks

1 Tablespoon white vinegar

1 quart peanut oil

1 quart vegetable oil

Kosher salt

Method

In large pot with 2 quarts water, add 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt, vinegar and potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat, boiling for 8 minutes. The potatoes should be mostly tender but not falling apart. Drain and spread on a baking sheet lined with paper towels, drying for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oils to 400° F in large (at least 5-quart) Dutch oven or deep fryer. Once oil has reached temperature, work in batches frying potatoes for 1 minute at a time. Remove with basket or wire mesh spider to wire rack over a baking sheet lined with paper towels or foil. Once all potatoes are fried and cooled to room temperature (about 15 minutes), pop the tray into the freezer, uncovered, for at least one hour.

From here you can leave the fries in the freezer overnight or up to a month, bagged and ready for their final fry or get right to it.

When you’re ready, return oil to 400° F. Working in batches again, fry potatoes 3 1/2 minutes, until crispy and golden brown. Drain each batch briefly on paper towels before moving to a bowl to toss with Kosher salt.

Serve immediately.

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