I have a weakness for good french fries. I’ll be completely satisfied, verging on stuffed, but if there are fries on my plate, I just can’t seem to stop myself. You know the story. You’re chatting away with your dining companions, meal finished, having a good time. A healthy stack of fries sits uneaten on the plate. Inevitably, before you pull away from the table, there are three left and you’re looking down at that plate confused because you are sure you made sure not to eat that GIANT pile of fries…
Anyway, we needed an excuse to make fries at home, and steak frites fit the bill perfectly. There is something hearty and wonderful about a good steak, charred and juicy, served with a big pile of salty crunchy fries.
Traditional steak frites is made with entrecote, a cut from between the ribs which is often approximated in the US with rib-eye. Both cuts are flavorful, tender, well-marbled, and fall on the more expensive side of the spectrum (it’s ok to splurge on good ingredients sometimes!). We had our butcher cut us two steaks around 3/4 of an inch thick, which is about right for pan frying without turning your meat into hockey pucks. I will admit that even though I overcooked the beef (145 is rare for pork, oops!) the steaks were flavorful and had a very nice texture.
Two 3/4″ cuts boneless rib-eye
1 tbsp. ground fennel seed
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper
Red wine sauce:
1 tbsp. butter
8oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup dry red wine, like cabernet sauvignon
Sautee your mushroom, shallot, and garlic in butter in a large heavy pan over medium heat. You want the mixture to brown a bit, which will take a little while as your veggies will release quite a bit of water. Put your finished vegetable mixture in a bowl and wipe out any excess moisture from the pan.
Wash your steaks, and pat them dry. Trim up any excess fat. Sprinkle the spice mixture to coat the steaks, making sure to rub the spices in and distribute them evenly. While the steaks come to room temperature, preheat your oven to 500F. When both the steaks and oven are ready, heat your pan with a light drizzle of olive oil over high heat until the oil is very hot but not smoking. Place the steaks in the pan (without moving them!) and cook them for 1 minute on each side. You should have a nice ‘crust’ on both sides. If not, let it go for another 30 seconds. Pour red wine into the steak pan to deglaze while you place your steaks in an oven-safe dish. Heat them in the oven about 3-5 minutes or until the internal temperature is right for your desired done-ness. Take the steaks out of the oven and tent with foil to rest. Add your vegetables back into the pan to heat through and serve steak with sauce immediately.
As for the fries, well, I think if they were really easy, people would make them all the time. We checked out a bunch of different techniques and methods, each one claiming to be the definitive fry technique, while all others fell short and were unworthy of consideration. We looked at cool frying, single frying, double frying, etc. We even checked in on the French Culinary Institute’s method of making the perfect frites.
In the end, we did as we always do: we took the best parts from here and there and cobbled together our own method for great fry making.
We started with 3 russet potatoes, hand cutting then into long thin sticks (about 1/4″ – 1/2″ thick). As you can see some of the fries were a bit larger than others. In a perfect world, they would all be the same or similar in size, but there is also something nice about non-machine cut fries, which the different sizes makes apparent.
Once the fries are cut put them immediately in a bowl of ice water to keep them crisp and clean off some of the starch in the potato. We left them in water for about an hour as we were prepping the water and oil.
Water? Yes, water. From our research, we decided that we were going to blanch the potatoes before any frying happened. The purpose of blanching the potatoes is to cook them (almost) fully so that you only need to worry about crust and browning during frying. Blanch your potatoes for about 10 minutes in salted water until soft and cooked. The salt will flavor the potatoes, requiring less salt later on. We may have added a touch too much salt to the water, so ended up not salting the fries after frying. One tip we read beforehand was to add 1 Tbs. of white vinegar per quart of water to the blanching liquid; this helps the potatoes stay intact after cooking. According to the site Serious Eats, potatoes blanched without vinegar were soft and fell apart, but those with it kept their shape.
Once the potatoes are blanches, we threw them in a 250 degree convection oven to dry them out a bit. The outside should be leathery to the touch.
We opted for the double fry method: first time at 340 degrees in peanut oil. The purpose of the first fry is to give the fries a thin crust. We could have left them a bit longer, but fried each batch for about 5-7 minutes. The fries will still be blonde after the first fry.
After all batches were done, the fries were left to cool for a few minutes. We heated the oil higher to 385 degrees for the second fry. This go around took about the same amount of time, but the result was a golden crust that remained crispy longer.
One of the fun things about fries is the chance to experiment. There are so many techniques, ingredients (infused oils?), and dishes to serve them with. In any case, you should serve the fries immediately so that they are hot and crispy, clearly the best way to enjoy them.