There is no better, more reliable restaurant dish than steak frites. It is perhaps America’s favorite French food, a cheeseburger deluxe recast for date nights, celebrations, feasts. Few make the dish at home, though: The frites are too labor-intensive for all but the most project-oriented cooks. Here, then, is a recipe to fake out the fries, one that will take even a relatively neophyte home cook little more than an hour to make. The aim is great steak, a delicious sauce of maître d’hôtel butter, and potatoes with a terrific quality of French fry-ness, supreme crispness, with soft and creamy flesh within.
For the mock frites
- Kosher salt
- 8-12 new, baby or C-grade potatoes
- 3 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola
For the maître d’hôtel butter
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons thyme leaves, minced
- 1 small shallot, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Splash Champagne or white-wine vinegar
For the steak
- 2 pounds beef steak, like boneless rib-eye, approximately 1 inch thick
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil, like canola.
- Preheat oven to 450. Set a large pot filled with salted water on the stove. Add potatoes, turn heat to high and cook, gently boiling, until they are softened, approximately 15 minutes. Drain potatoes, and dry them well.
- Grease a sheet pan with half the oil, and put the potatoes on the pan. Using a potato masher or the bottom of a heavy glass, gently smash each potato, pressing it down to a thickness of less than an inch. Drizzle the rest of the oil over the smashed potatoes, place on top rack in the oven and allow to roast until the exteriors are golden and crunchy, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Add salt to taste.
- Make the maître d’hôtel butter. Put the butter on a cutting board and, using a fork, cut the other ingredients into it until the butter is creamy and smooth. Scrape the butter together with a chef’s knife, and form it into a rough log. If making it ahead of time, you can roll it tight in a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
- As the potatoes finish crisping, make the steaks. Set a heavy-bottomed skillet — or 2 if your steaks are large and you are cooking them in 4 pieces — over high heat, and let it sit for a few minutes. Shower the steaks with an aggressive amount of salt and pepper. Add the oil to the pan, and shake to distribute. It will almost immediately begin to smoke. Place the steaks in the pan, and allow to sear, unattended, for 4 minutes, until they have developed a serious crust. Turn the steaks over, and cook for an additional 3 to 6 minutes for medium-rare. Remove steaks to a warm platter to rest. Top each steak with a tablespoon of the butter.
- Remove the potatoes from the oven, and season them with salt and a grind of pepper. Place 2 or 3 crunchy potatoes on each plate, then nestle a steak up beside them. Top each steak with pats of the remaining butter.