If I didn’t live in France anymore, and came back as a visitor, what would I want to eat? I like to play these little ‘short-listing’ games – favourite dishes, restaurants and cities. One of the winners would be steak, French fries and Béarnaise sauce. This is my feel-good Friday night kind of meal – a juicy steak, covered in the best golden sauce, and finger licking good French fries with a beautiful glass of Bordeaux. What more could I ask for?
As I am a red meat fan, I love ‘Le Severo’ in Paris (8, Rue des plantes 75014 Paris). Owned by William Bernet (he was a butcher at the ‘Boucherie Nivernaises’, one of the best butchers in Paris), Le Severo is a red meat temple, serving the best steak-frites in Paris. He is also famous for a superb wine list. I once asked Bernet what was his secret for cooking the meat so perfectly. His answer was simple – ‘I use peanut oil’ (huile d’arachide). Now that is a good tip.
Can you believe Béarnaise sauce was a glorified mistake? The scene takes place in the kitchens of the ‘Henri IV pavilion’ in St-Germain-en-Laye in 1837. A cook by the name of ‘Collinet’ overboils a shallot sauce by letting it reduce too long. He decides to save it by adding egg yolks and herbs. When asked the name of his sauce, Collinet tries to find a name and gets inspired by Henri IV who came from Béarn province. The Béarnaise sauce was born!
4 faux-filets (sirloin) steaks (this is my preference, but you can obviously choose your favourite type of steak)
250 grs butter
50 ml white wine
30 ml white wine vinegar
4 tsp water
4 egg yolks
2 shallots (chopped very finely)
salt and pepper
1/2 bouquet chervil (chopped)
1/2 bouquet tarragon (chopped)
Dash of peanut oil
Clarify your butter – melt the butter in a saucepan on a low heat. Simmer gently until the foam rises to the top. You should see the milk solids separating. Set aside to cool slightly, discard the foam, and pour the clear clarified butter in a bowl. You only want to keep the ‘clear’ butter which is perfect for cooking on high temperature and making sauces. You might want to use a strainer if you wish.
Chop the shallots and herbs very finely. Set aside
In another saucepan, boil the vinegar, white wine, finely chopped shallots, half of the herbs, salt and pepper until it has reduced and turned slighty syrup-like. Remove from heat, add the 4 egg yolks and the 4 tsp of water and whisk continuously. Return to a low heat, continue to whisk, and remove from heat every 1 minute – repeat this process for 10 minutes, constantly whisking until the sauce becomes frothy and starts thickening. By now your sauce should have reached its goal. Remove from heat and add the cooled clarified butter, continue to whisk, (just as if you were preparing a mayonnaise). You should obtain a beautiful thick yet smooth sauce. Add the rest of the chopped herbs. The key is to constantly whisk the sauce, alternating on/off the heat.
Fry your steak on a griddle or frying pan. Heat a frying pan or griddle on a high heat, and when the pan gets very hot, add a tsp of oil. Fry steak on both sides – I like mine medium, so about 2 minutes on each side.
Here are three golden rules when cooking steak: 1) Always take out the meat from the fridge 1 hour before cooking. 2) Salt the steak before cooking it. 3) Do not move of touch the steak when cooking. Just let it sizzle.
Serve with French fries.