AT A GLANCE
"This is both a home and bistro classic, and the most classic of all French dishes I can think of," says France-Soir chef Jean-Paul Prunetti. "The meat was traditionally whatever piece the butcher was selling on the morning as the best cut of the day, but more often than not it was an entrecôte, better known here in Australia as a Scotch fillet. Frites were not often seen at home - most homes did not have a fryer. My mother had a round blackened pot complete with a little wire basket and used it only for oil cooking. Once a week, often on a Sunday, my mother would fry hand-cut chips in the pot and serve them alongside a roast chicken. It was a big event, these hand-cut chips, and I remember they were always very crisp. Mostly people ate steak frites at home with pommes sautés - small-cut potatoes slowly cooked in duck fat in a sauteuse. A steak frites meal was always finished with a crunchy green salad. In fact, at home in France, every meal was traditionally finished with a salad - the salad came when we'd finished the main course and, depending on the house, served on clean plates. We never had béarnaise sauce at home. Even in bistros, steak frites was served only with mustard. Traditionally it was a worker's dish; sauces such as béarnaise were added more recently. Before then, they were rarely seen outside fine-dining establishments. The average housewife did not have the skills or time to make them. Steak frites was and remains a basic, affordable and classic bistro dish."
|01||For béarnaise, boil wine, vinegar, shallot, peppercorns, half the tarragon, half the chervil and a pinch of salt in a saucepan until reduced by about two-thirds (6-8 minutes). Whisk egg yolks with 50ml water in a bowl, then place over a saucepan of very warm water (not boiling) over low-medium heat. Whisking continuously, slowly drizzle wine reduction into the egg yolks until mixture thickens (2-3 minutes). Remove saucepan from heat, keeping bowl in place, and whisk in clarified butter a few pieces at a time, ensuring butter is well incorporated before adding more. Strain béarnaise through a fine sieve, then stir in remaining chervil and tarragon, season to taste and keep warm in a flask or placed over a saucepan of warm water until ready to serve.|
|02||Bring a char-grill pan to high heat. Season steaks and brush with oil, then grill, flipping once and turning 90 degrees as you go, until medium rare (3-4 minutes each side; internal temperature reads 58C on a meat thermometer). Rest in a warm place for 5 minutes.|
|03||Meanwhile, heat extra oil in a deep-fryer or deep saucepan to 190C and fry shoestring fries in batches until golden and crisp (4-6 minutes; be careful, hot oil will spit), drain on paper towels and season with sea salt. Scatter steak with parsley and serve with frites, watercress and béarnaise sauce in a sauceboat.|
2010 DOMAINE JAMET CÔTE-RÔTIE, RHÔNE VALLEY. , suggested by PIERRE STOCK