Steak frites may be the perfect meal. Think about it; rich beefy goodness paired with salty crunchy potatoes and topped with a delectable sauce. What is there not to love about that? In my opinion, this combo is great any way it’s prepared, but this version is currently my favorite way to cook up the classic. I took advantage of a super sale on primo beef from my local butcher and picked up center cut filets rather than my beloved strip. The filets are pepper crusted on one side and drizzled with a savory red wine sauce to complement the cut. I upgraded from sticks to circles and fried up a crispy potato chip that easily swabs the plate picking up every last drop of precious sauce. The meal is completed by adding a quick green salad of peppery baby arugula and sliced green onions that are lightly dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt (no recipe needed, just make it to personal taste). This is really a dinner (or lunch) for two, so it’s okay to spend a little extra on your steak and be a little indulgent as you take on this culinary classic.
Makes 2 servings
1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns, very coarsely ground
2 (8 to 9 oz) center cut beef tenderloin filets
2 small Russet potatoes
Flaked sea salt
1/2 cup red wine
2 Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. cold butter
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Evenly spread pepper on a small saucer or salad plate. Press 1 side of each filet into pepper to coat. Let stand.
2. Meanwhile, slice potatoes to 1/16-inch thickness using a mandolin slicer to get uniform slices. Rinse potato slices with cold water until water is no longer cloudy. Drain and pat dry.
3. Pour oil to a 1-inch depth in a large skillet or saucepan; heat oil to 300 degrees over medium heat. Add potato slices in batches and cook 3 minutes until tender. Remove and drain on paper towels. Reduce heat to low to prevent oil from overheating.
4. Heat a heavy-bottomed ovenproof skillet over medium heat 5 minutes or until hot. Add 1 Tbsp. oil to skillet and heat until oil is hot (about 1 minute). Place filets pepper side down and cook 3 minutes or until browned and pepper is very fragrant. Turn and place in oven and bake 7 to 10 minutes or until thermometer inserted registers 135 to 140 degrees (medium). While filets are in oven, finish frying potatoes: Increase heat to medium-high and bring oil to 375 degrees. Cook potatoes again, in batches, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often, or until crisp and golden brown. Drain on a wire rack and immediately sprinkle with salt to taste.
5. Transfer filets to a plate. Wipe skillet clean and place over medium heat. Add wine and Worcestershire sauce and reduce by half (about 4 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in butter until blended. Slice filets, if desired, pour sauce over steaks and serve with fried potatoes and green salad. Season steak with salt to taste.
Very coarse ground pepper lands somewhere between cracked and coarse ground. To get the ideal results, a mortar and pestle are your best allies. However, if you don’t have one, placing the peppercorns on a cutting board and crushing them with the bottom of a heavy skillet gets the job done just as well.
Firmly press your filet into the pepper to coat the top. When cooking the filets, let your nose rule your timing. The pungent aromas will guide you as to when to turn it. Usually 3 minutes does the trick, but if you hit 2 minutes and it smells like the pepper is starting to burn, jump in and save your steak and turn that bad boy over!
Norm’s Notes: Fry King
The key to making any frying process a success is to have all of your steps in order before oil touches pan. Have your food cut, rinsed and patted dry; utensils selected; and a place to drain the fried item once they come out of the oil. Then, and only then, add the oil and heat it to the desired temperature. In this recipe the frying process is broken up into two separate steps at two different temperatures. This is to enhance the crispness of the fries and to allow you to complete the steak and finish frying in the same amount of time so neither gets cold waiting for the other to finish its chores and come out to play. Pay attention to the recipe and be sure to reduce the heat to low when not actively frying as it will cut down on your oil getting over heated and giving an off flavor to the food.