French Classic: How To Make Steak Frites
Many people may erroneously assume that the French fry, in spite of its clearly named national attribution, is an invention of American gastro-economics. The truth is that the medium for the popular fast food side is entirely American, but pomme frites are quite Old World in their origins. Consider a classic dish such as steak frites. While the Belgians and the French may argue til the end of time on who thought it up first, this tasty dish is Gallic in the extreme.
Steak frites is exactly what it sounds like—steak and fries. But the beauty in this deceptively simply fare is in the details. First, the frite in question are never fried in vegetable oil, and never deep-fried in the same fashion as American fast food fries. Rather, they are pan fried in rendered beef fat. This is a matter of tradition. Only in the Southwestern regions of France will you find them fried in duck fat—a treat, to be sure.
But there’s another matter of critical import when you’re interested in making steak frites redolent with authenticity—your steak. Choosing the proper cut can and should take a bit of effort, because the French have an application for the wide array of beef products available. You wouldn’t choose a hangar steak for this dish, because it’s a tough cut and frying isn’t a friendly way to deal with its particular personality.
No, what you’re seeking is a nicely marbled sirloin. This steak takes to frying nicely and produces a velvety yet substantial texture on the plate. Unless you’ve got a great dynamic with the butcher in your local market, your best bet for obtaining the best, most beautifully marbled sirloins is to peruse the offerings at from premium online service. While there are many “grocery” websites that can offer a broad array of products, when it comes to meat, you want a speciality shop, such as Butcherman’s. This ensures that their main focus is the quality of your steak, not reproducing a grocery store experience in the virtual realm.
Steak Frites, Step by Step
4 300g Butcherman Grass Fed sirloins, at least 3-4 cm thick
Salt and fresh black pepper
Rub the steaks with salt and pepper. If your meat has a consistent, rich marbling of fat, oil is unnecessary. On a preheated grill or a heavy grill pan, cook the steaks—2 minutes on each side for Rare; 4 minutes a side for Medium; and six minutes for Well Done. Allow your steak to rest for an equivalent amount of time.
5 large potatoes, with peel intact. Recommended are Yukon Gold, Russet, and Burbank Russet.
3 c rendered duck or beef fat.
For this recipe, you’ll need a very large skillet, preferably cast iron. You’ll fry your frites in batches, to avoid crowding the pan and burning or undercooking your potatoes.
You may elect to use a fry press, but if you hand cut them, they should measure 1.5 cm on a side and about 5 cm in length.
Melt your fat and heat to approximately 150 degrees centigrade. Fry potatoes in batches, about ¼ each time, until golden brown. Approximately 7 minutes.
3 egg yolks, room temperature
50 ml white wine vinegar
400 ml ghee, warm
1 tsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Fresh cracked pepper
(You’ll need a double boiler or a large metal bowl and pot of boiling water.)
Combine yolks and vinegar once the water has come to a boil. Whisk vigorously until the mixture is fluffy and pale.
Remove it from the heat and strain it through a sieve lined with cheesecloth into a clean bowl. Drizzle the ghee steadily, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens. Add salt and pepper, lemon juice, and tarragon.
For the Bearnaise, you’ll need to have ghee or clarified butter. You can make this at home by bringing butter to a boil and skimming off the impurities. It keeps in the fridge for a week. You can also source it at your local grocery store.
Serve your steak frites with a delicious dollop of sauce and taste the difference between what the French call “fries” and what we’ve grown accustomed to eating.