For 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.
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.
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.
Press the thyme on to both sides of the beef. No other seasoning is needed.
Thyme for a totally gratuitous meat shot. Tell me if you don’t want to see these in future.
Get a cast iron pan (skillet) very hot. Sprinkle on the salt.
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.
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).
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….
Pour the pan jus over the steak (there won’t be much of it). Add the pomme frites and serve.
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….