February 20, 2011
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This simple dish of steak and French fries is classic bistro fare. In US the steak is usually New York strip but in France it is more often a thin slice from the rump, like the sirloin tip steak I use. And while in this country the steak is almost always cooked on a grill, in France it is pan fried in a bit of butter. Portion sizes are much smaller there too, usually 100 grams (3.5 ounces) and never more than 200 grams. The French fries have to be crispy and piping hot so timing is critical to successful steak frites. The thin steak should not rest very long so make sure that the fries are nearly done before you start the meat then pop them back into the hot oil for a minute or two before serving. Above all, remember that this is plain bistro food; do not be tempted to gussie it up with a sauce. A pat of compound butter is all you need. Traditionally, steak frites are served without a vegetable but you can add a green salad if you wish.
- 2 Tbsp. softened butter
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley and/or other herb to taste
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 2 russet potatoes, about 1 pound
- 2 3½-ounce to 4-ounce sirloin tip steaks, about ⅜ inch thick
- Salt and pepper
- Oil for frying the potatoes
- Unsalted butter for cooking the steaks
First make the compound butter by creaming together in a small bowl the softened butter, garlic, parsley, and salt. (Or, if you are lazy like I am, use a minichopper.) Spread the butter mixture onto the center of a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a 1-inch cylinder then twist the ends of the plastic to make a tight sausage. Place in the refrigerator to cool. (There will be more than you need for your steak frites but it keeps well.)
Turn on deep fryer to 300°F or, if you do not have an electric deep fryer, heat at least 2” of oil in a heavy pan monitoring the temperature with a thermometer. Peel the potatoes and, using a French fry cutter or mandolin if you have one, cut into even ⅜-inch strips. Put into a bowl of cold water for at least 30 minutes. Remove one half of the potatoes from the water and dry well on a kitchen towel. Fry for 3 minutes then drain on a cooling rack or in a screen colander. Repeat with the other half of the potatoes. These can be done ahead of time.
Turn the deep fryer up to 375°F. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels then season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron skillet first on medium heat then on high heat. Fry the potatoes, in one batch this time, until lightly brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Let drain while you cook the meat. Add about a tablespoon of butter to the skillet and put in the steaks. Turn after 2 minutes and return the fries to the oil for another minute. Remove to the colander and season with a bit of kosher salt. Plate with the steaks, adding a generous pat of compound butter to each steak. Serve immediately.