A passion for simplicity – ‘Classic’ Steak Frites

Steak FritesFor a while now, I have been planning to cook the simple French classic of Steak Frites (steak and chips to you and me). As chance would have it, I was out and about and called to see the new James Whelan Butcher shop in the Avoca store just off the Naas Road outside Dublin. I was lucky enough to bump into Pat Whelan, son of James and the driving force behind the growth of the business. We had a good chat and Pat’s passion for Irish beef and all Irish farmed food really drove the conversation.

Before I left, Pat cut me two fantastic rib eye steaks. So, with Pat supplying the passion, all I had to do was add the ‘simple’ and show you how to prepare this delicious dish.

Side note on culinary “Classics”: In classical music, there tends to be a score that orchestras follow. Each time the music is reproduced, it should be recognisable and similar to every other performance. In classic cars, one should always strive to be true to the original and not replace bits with modern ‘better’ parts. Unlike classical music and classic cars, in cookery, it seems that the classics can be reproduced with only passing reference to any original. Each chef or untrained home cook (me) can put their own twist on any dish and still call it a ‘Classic’. That’s pretty classic, in my view. 

Everything , yes, everything, that goes into this wonderful dish.

Everything , yes, everything, that goes into this wonderful dish.

With my side note in mind, here’s what you will need for my take on ‘Classic’ Steak Frites;

  • 2 big, prime, Irish, rib eye steaks
  • 2 hands-full of fresh thyme
  • 1 generous teaspoon of salt
  • 4 Rooster potatoes (or other ‘chipping’ potato)
  • 1 bottle of good French wine

Side note on the wine choice: This 2004 Clos du Marquis was the last bottle from a modest supply I picked up in France back in 2007. We drank the second last bottle on the 28th September 2010 – The night the IMF agreed to bail out Ireland. That night it was to dull the pain. This time it was to celebrate this fantastic Irish beef. After this, it’s the cheap stuff until we get rid of the IMF. 

The first thing I did was decant the wine. This set up my most expensive pouring shot in ages.

The Clos du Marquis 2004 is poured through an aerator into the decanter.

The Clos du Marquis 2004 is poured through an aerator into the decanter.

Next thing, peel and slice the potatoes into pommes frites (chunky chips). Soak these in water for 30 minutes to remove some of the starch. Dry them in a tea towel before deep-frying them in medium-hot oil 160ºC for 5 minutes. Then drain them and rest them in kitchen paper. I don’t have any photos of this as I was too busy photographing the thyme and the beef.

Like I said, two big handfulls of fresh thyme. Trust me....

Like I said, two big hands-full of fresh thyme. Trust me….

Press the thyme on to both sides of the beef. No other seasoning is needed.

Yes, that's a whole lotta' thyme. Press it in.

Yes, that’s a whole lotta’ thyme. Press it in.

Thyme for a totally gratuitous meat shot. Tell me if you don’t want to see these in future.

Thyme for the gratuitous meat shot. Geddit!

Thyme for the gratuitous meat shot. Geddit!

Get a cast iron pan (skillet) very hot. Sprinkle on the salt.

Yes, I know, that's a lot of salt. Trust me...

Yes, I know, that’s a lot of salt. Trust me…

Place the steaks on the pan and leave them alone. When I say leave them I mean don’t touch them. Don’t poke them. Don’t shuffle them. Don’t move them. After 4 minutes of not doing the above, turn them.

Look at the thyme and salt stuck to that steak.

Look at the thyme and salt stuck to that steak.

A couple of minutes more and they are done. I like mine rare. In France, you can have your meat rare, rarer or trying to run away.

Let the steaks rest while giving the pommes frites a second go in the oil. The oil should be hotter, about 190ºC for a couple of minutes, until they look cooked. I do have a shot of this as the meat was resting (no rest for me).

My improvised chip pan. That's a whole other story that I don't think I will tell.

My improvised chip pan. That’s a whole other story that I don’t think I will tell.

The only thing left to do is to deglaze the pan with some of the wine. I know it seems like a waste of fine wine to pour it onto a hot salty pan but, trust me….

Another novel pouring shot. Very expensive deglazing in action.

Another novel pouring shot. Very expensive deglazing in action.

Pour the pan jus over the steak (there won’t be much of it). Add the pomme frites and serve.

I could not wait. I had to taste it while taking the photos. Sorry about that!

I could not wait. I had to taste it while taking the photos. Sorry about that!

You will not need any extra seasoning. No pepper, no mustard, no salt. This is a really easy to prepare, delicious ‘classic’. Try it and you won’t be disappointed. Trust me….

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Latest comments
  • Nothing wrong with good plain food! Nice decanter.

    • Thanks Rosemary, I don’t get to use it too often, sadly.

  • This post covers so much more than classic steak fries — and we’re the better for it. Loved your definition of “classic”, as well as the look of those steaks, but in my mind’s eye, Conor, I see a French diner chasing his steak around the restaurant. 🙂
    Double-frying potatoes is the only way to go. Great tip, too, about giving them a good soak before they hit the oil. That was a fantastic meal you prepared and a great post describing it for us. Thanks.

    • Thanks John, I am a ‘rare’ meat person myself. Some of the steak crimes one sees in restaurants can be hard to take.
      As this is a ‘classic’ I take no kudos for any of it, except perhaps the cooking.

  • My favourite dish. Last eaten in this classical way at L’Ecurie just round the corner from the Panthéon in Paris. Sensational! Nice post Conor. The simple dishes are invariably the best and it’s good to be reminded of that from time to time. It looks delicious.

    • Thanks Adam, It’s a while since I dined in Paris. I need to rectify that one of these days.

  • Reblogged this on My Meals are on Wheels.

  • Very nice post on Steak and chips. Reassuring side not on culinary classics, I tend to sway on the side of unclassical when it comes to classics. At least I can do so now in peace that I ain’t breaking any rules.

    • Those rules are made to be broken Evan. Break away!

  • Goodness. This is absolutely fantastic! A good rib eye is always my choice. This is a very informative lovely post.

    • Thanks for that. There is nothing like a good rib eye and these were great!

  • Made me smile – quite an achievement after 27+ hours of no power and a big tree down in the gales this side of the Small Piece of Water. Hope you escaped unscathed. The steak and wine look fabulous. And the chips!

    • We were battered and buffeted by the media. As is usual, the reality of the weather did not live up (down) to the hype. I hope you have power and sens of humour restored soon.
      Best,
      Conor

      • Humour and power both restored today, thanks. 🙂

        • Delighted to hear it. Not that you lost the former. We are losing our water in Dublin for the next few nights. Pretty outrageous given how much of it has fallen on top of us.

  • Can’t beat some steak frites. When I lived in France this was my fav growing up. It has made me nostalgic 🙂

    • Happy to oblige Diana, Nobody cooks steak as well as the French. (That’s me trying to start an argument).
      Best,
      Conor

  • love the pouring shot! you are a lucky man to get such nice beef 😉 I need to find myself a butcher shop!

    • I was pretty pleased with that one! A butcher you can trust is the only way to go.

  • Bravo! So simple and so beautiful. I rather like your improvised chip (fry) pan, if I must say so. And I wish that piece of steak in the final photo was attached to my fork. (sigh)

    • Thanks Tommy. We gave up using our chip pan about a year and a half ago. It’s a long story that would probably bore you to tears. Also, by not using it, we eat far less deep fried food. That has to be a good thing. The basket us useful for this occasional stuff. The steak is like nothing you have ever tasted. Melt in the mouth, heady from the herbs, salty crust and the little bit of reduction combine to make it really delicious. Do give it a go.
      Best,
      Conor

      • Salty, herby, saucy, melt in your mouth! Now my mouth is watering. Amazing job.

  • Nice meat, Man. And your fried taters are looking good too!

  • Conor, great post and fabulous photos, especially the decanting shot. Nice wine, too. Ironically, I just made steak and taters last week with a grass fed New York strip – they were out of ribeyes 🙁 . Baby Lady, not being a beef eater, had a thick pork porterhouse chop. We served it with a very nice California Cab. Steak and taters is about as basic as you can get but I know a whole lot of people that t put it at the top of their list of favorites. Sometimes the simple, basic things in life are the very best.

    • Thanks Richard. The steaks were really top quality and I wanted to do them justice. I also wanted to keep our Friday night dinner to Friday night and not drift into Saturday while I took photos….

  • awesome post, conor.

    i’m jealous of your steaks, but i’m also jealous of your resplendant thyme. i would give an arm and a leg for that much fresh thyme. it is by far one of my favorite herbs. oh, and you are in good company regarding the internal temperature of your exquisite beef. i like my steak to moo when i stab it with a fork.

    after reading such an awesome steak post, i’ve started to wonder what you could do with my favorite “classic,” steak and eggs.

    • WE are blessed with having a decent thyme supply, though it will thin out as winter encroaches. Steak and eggs is not one I have done in a long time. I’m sure there are a few “classic” ways to do them!

  • My goodness, you’ve outdone yourself! Next I’d like to see the “triple-cooked chips” which were all the rage when we were in England.

    • Thanks Michelle,
      I have tried the triple cooked approach. Maybe it is just me but every time I had them it was like eating an outer with nothing inside. I think it was just somebody deciding that if twice cooked is good, thrice must be better. Not so.
      Best,
      Conor

  • Your steak frites reminds me it’s time to book a trip to Paris! Makes my mouth water 🙂

    • It has me thinking of it too. Could be an expensive dinner at this rate!

  • All time favourite – and yet not as easy as it looks, if you like your steak done to a specific redness – i err on the side of caution and go for underdone rather than overdone – nothing worse!

    • Under is best always. You can’t uncook it!

  • Gorgeous. I like my steak still mooing!

  • Looking fantastic. I’d drink much wine from that decanter… too much. I have such a hankering for steak at the moment. Next week. Next week.

    • I look forward to seeing what you do Nick. Always great.
      Best,
      Conor

  • It does look scrumptious. Am always amused when someone orders a well done steak and those who like it rare just look so horrified. Have to admit I don’t like it too red – medium is perfect. Don’t want the steak trying to eat the vegetables 😉
    Agree – Pat is v passionate about his business and a great businessman and butcher.

    • Thanks Lorna,
      That passion shines through in the shops and the end product. We can all learn from it. Well, I certainly can…

  • Looks fabulous Conor!

  • There is a reason this is a classic dish…simple to prepare and oh so delicious. I like all the thyme that you used…I can’t wait to try the steak prepared with it.

    • Hi Karen, Great to hear from you. It is a very easy dish to get right (thanks be to goodness). Thyme is my hero herb.

      • I had to take time out of my travels to stop by and see what you have been cooking up. Not only good food, but two awards…congratulations!

        • Thanks Karen,
          I was pretty surprised to win. Now I have to keep my standards up!
          Best,
          Conor

  • Sometimes the classic ones will blow your taste buds to the heavenly flavour…
    your thyme crust steak is looks irresistable!

    • Hi Deddy, Great to see you back. It was pretty tasty indeed.
      Best,
      Conor

  • Well if you went pure classic you’d probably have an herb butter with thyme. right?
    I figure the more thyme the better!
    And I need to get myself a little stove fryer like that. I will imagine the improvisation. And be careful.

    • The butter / thyme idea is also a ‘classic’. How many classics can there be? Now you have me wanting to try it with loads of butter. Mmmmmm…

  • You seem to have more butcher shops and fishmongers within striking distance of your house than you can shake a sauté pan at–all of which staffed by families with whom you seem to have multigenerational relationships. I’m beginning to think there’s a culinary surveillance network out, so shop-owners can, “Oh my God, it’s that blogging guy–he’s back again! Praise the saints and put out the good stuff!” Ken

    • Ken, you break me up! I try to get on with my shopkeepers because it’s nice to be nice. If that gets me the better end of the fillet, so be it. Sharing that love and interest has some side benefits, for sure. You and Jody should come over so I can introduce you to some of those fine people and see if you get the same treatment. I know that you will.

      • You never know where we might find ourselves cycling. 😉

        • I would love to do some of that with you. I have to raise my fitness and get stuck into some hard winter cycling now. I am committed to four events next year. I also “invested” in a new bike. That’s a whole different story too.

          • We’re looking at Sardinia for cooking/biking next summer/fall. We’ll see. Ken

          • Temperatures are low here today. It’s about 7 degrees. We are going out to do an 80k in the winter sunshine. I just love to be out on the bike. Dan Martin is patron of a charity with which we assist. He was in Dublin on Thursday and called to the office to say hello. He inspires us. A really great chap.

  • I made this last night Conor! Fabuloso! The steaks were amazing! I did an international dinner. The steak featured here, bacon cheese potatoes from a gal in Australia, and my own sauteed mushrooms…I will be linking to this post sometime during the week! Thanks for the recipe! ^..^

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