Steak Frites has been on my mind since the middle of the workweek. On Saturday morning I set out for the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market to buy the two ingredients needed for this dish – steak and potato. I picked up a few other things that caught my eye and enjoyed the “Best Cheeseburger” at Ryan Farr’s 4505 Meats for lunch. While there I grabbed a small bag of his incredible chicharones to bring home.
One stand sells only organically farmed potatoes. About a dozen varieties are available. Since, the frites are such an important component to this dish, I was looking for a variety that fry well. My heart was set on Kennebec potatoes, but these were not available this week. After looking at the varieties on display and talking with the young lady watching over the stand, I chose the Butterball variety. It turned out to be a great frying potato.
Great potatoes in hand, I set out for Golden Gate Meats to procure a great steak. Entrecôte is a cut often used for Steak Frites. In the U.S. a Rib Eye is the equivalent cut and there were heavily marbled prime cuts of Rib Eye in the case at the butcher. I picked up one of these and a pint of duck fat to be used for frying potatoes.
Before starting the main preparation, a stick of butter was set on the counter top to come to room temperature in order to prepare a Maître d’Hôtel Butter to garnish and flavor the steak when served. This is a compound butter consisting of herbs, lemon juice and a touch of champagne vinegar.
Cooking the steak is relatively straightforward. It is the frites that take a bit of extra effort and time. The potatoes are first peeled and then set aside in cold water until the cooking process begins. When it is time to prepare the potatoes, these are cut into ¼” fries (a mandoline makes short work of this) and then cooked in duck fat at a relatively low temperature (280 to 300 degrees) for about 5 minutes.
The partially cooked (blanched) potatoes are then removed from the fat to drain and allowed to cool to room temperature. Before serving, the potatoes are fried at a high heat (375 degrees) for about one minute, or until crisp and golden. Twice cooked potatoes fried in duck fat are a pretty amazing treat.
The steak is brought to room temperature, seasoned and drizzled with good, extra virgin olive oil. The steak can be cooked in a hot cast iron skillet on the stovetop, or pan roasted with the second half of the cooking process taking place in the oven. I used that later method and brought the steak to an internal temperature of 135 degrees for medium. Other than the compound butter (good for multiple recipes), this recipe is for a single serving of Steak Frites.
For the Maître d’Hôtel Butter
- 8 ounces (1 stick) of room temperature unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon minced chives
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of finely minced flat leaf parsley
- Juice of ½ lemon (Use a Myer lemon if available.)
- 1 splash of champagne vinegar
For the Steak Frites
- 2 potatoes for frying (Kennebec are the best choice if available. Russets may be used)
- 1 ½ pints of rendered duck fat (Another fat such as Peanut oil or Crisco can be substituted)
- ¾ to 1 pound Rib Eye steak
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper
- In a small bowl, mix the butter with the minced herbs, lemon juice and vinegar until combined. Place butter on a sheet of plastic wrap. Roll the butter into a 4-inch log, wrap with plastic twisting the ends to seal. Place butter in the refrigerator to cool for about 1 hour before using.
- Peel the potatoes, place in cold water and set aside until cooking process begins.
- In a saucepan, add enough duck fat to fill the pan 2 inches when the fat is melted. Bring the fat to a temperature of 280 degrees. While the fat is coming to temperature, cut the potatoes into ¼” fries. In small batches, cook the fries in duck fat for 5 minutes then drain and set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Place the steak on a plate and bring to room temperature. Season both sides of the steak with salt, pepper and a light drizzle of olive oil.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
- Bring a cast iron skillet to medium high heat. Place the steak in the skillet and let cook for approximately 4 minutes. Turn the steak and place the hot skillet in the oven for 4 additional minutes. Check for doneness and then remove to a plate to rest covered in foil for 5 minutes.
- Bring duck fat to a temperature of 375 degrees. Fry the potatoes a second time in small batches for 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp and golden. Remove to drain and season with sea salt.
- Place steak on the plate with a slice of the Maître d’Hôtel Butter, arrange the frites and serve.