Steak frites

Steak frites from In the French kitchen with kids by Mardi Michels
© Kyla Zanardi

Steak frites, is a French classic. Ubiquitous on café and bistro menus it’s one of the first meals I seek out when I arrive in France. But did you know that steak frites is not just for adults? You may be surprised to learn that although it might seem more of an adult meal, in a country like France, where the concept of a children’s menu isn’t as common as it is in North America, this might be offered as the plat du jour for younger diners. It’s not unusual to see children eating their steak saignant (rare) either! Speaking of which…

Do you know how to order a steak in France?

Bleu – the steak will have just touched the grill for a minute or so on either side

Saignant (literally: “bloody”) – Very rare

A point – what the French consider “medium” but rare by North American standards

Bien cuit (literally “well done”) – less well done than you might expect! There will still be pink in the middle of the meat.

Ok, so to get your steak just perfect for YOU, you’re going to have to learn to make it yourself!

Steak frites at home? Yes you can!

Often I find “restaurant” meals are the ones people think they couldn’t possibly attempt at home but here’s a tip: Steak frites couldn’t be simpler! It might take you a few tries to get your steak just how you like it but once you figure it out, it will become one of your “go to” meals.

However you like your steak, there’s nothing better to accompany it than a heaping pile of crispy-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the-inside fries. The best fries come from a deep fryer, but as that isn’t a common appliance in most households, I’ve developed a recipe for perfect oven-baked fries that everyone can help make!

Kids chopping potatoes for oven baked fries from In the French kitchen with kids by Mardi Michels
© Mardi Michels

steak with oven-baked fries {steak frites}

Serves 4
Prep time: 20 minutes (steak), 20 minutes plus 1 hour soaking time (potatoes)
Cook time: 60 to 75 minutes

Ingredients

For the fries
2 lb (900 g) Yukon Gold potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the steak
4 boneless ribeye steaks (7 oz/200 g each, around 1 inch/2.5 cm thick)
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

To serve
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, Dijon mustard (I prefer Maille), Mayonnaise and/or ketchup

Method

Make the fries:

1.Slice the potatoes lengthwise (there’s no need to peel them but do scrub them well) into about 1/2-inch-wide (1 cm) sticks. Don’t worry if some of them are shorter than others. The most important thing is that they are more or less the same width.

2. Place the potato sticks in a large bowl of cold water for 1 hour, making sure the water completely covers the potatoes. This will remove the starch, prevent them from sticking together and help them crisp up nicely in the oven.

3. Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C). Line two baking trays with parchment paper.

4. Drain the potato sticks in a large colander. Place a few sheets of paper towel on a countertop and lay the potato sticks in a single layer. Cover with a few more sheets of paper towel and gently pat them dry. It’s important to dry the potatoes as much as you can, otherwise they won’t crisp up when you bake them.

5. Place the potato sticks in a large bowl and pour the oil over them, then sprinkle the salt, chili powder (if using) and pepper over top. Using your hands, mix everything well to make sure the potatoes are evenly coated with the oil and spices.

6. Lay the potato sticks in a single layer on each baking tray. Place one tray on the top rack of the oven and the other on the bottom rack.

7. Bake for 1 hour, switching the trays from the top to the bottom of the oven and rotating them 180 degrees halfway through, as well as flipping the potatoes with a flat spatula so they crisp up and cook evenly.

8. After an hour, the frites should be crispy and golden. If not, leave them in the oven for 5 minutes at a time, checking often, until they are done.

While the potatoes are baking, prepare the steak:

1. Rub the steaks all over with the salt and pepper. Place them on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until about 20 minutes before you are going to use them, so about 40 minutes into cooking the potatoes.

2. You can pan-sear, broil or grill your steaks. Here we’re going to pan-sear them, so you’ll need to heat the pan just before you’re ready to use it. Place a grill pan (preferably a cast-iron skillet with a ribbed base to make “grill” marks) over medium-high heat and add the oil.

3. Once the oil is hot enough, add your steaks—you should hear an audible “sssssss” when you add the meat if the pan is hot enough— and cook for 3 minutes on each side. The internal temperature as measured with a meat thermometer will be 155˚F (68˚C) when you take it off the heat and 160˚F (71˚C) after it has rested.

4. Remove the steaks from the grill pan and place them on a (preferably pre-warmed) plate and loosely cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

5. Serve the steak with mustard on the side and the fries with ketchup and mayonnaise on the side. (The fries shouldn’t need any more salt or pepper.)

Notes:

This recipe was written for children to make (and eat!) and you might think this seems like a lot of potatoes for kids to slice up into such precisely sized sticks. Actually, it’s a great activity for kids (and beginner cooks of all ages) because it teaches them so much!

Tell kids why it’s important to slice the sticks consistently (so they bake evenly), and talk them through the process of soaking them to remove the starch. I find if I know why I am doing something, I’m more likely to understand why it’s important to follow the instructions. Cooking is all about actions and consequences and with kids, it’s a great learning experience. Maybe they don’t slice the sticks very evenly—let it be, unless the differences are really marked, and show them once they are cooked how some of the fries are too crispy and some aren’t done enough.

Got younger budding chefs? Drying the potato sticks post-soak on paper towels, patting them dry with more paper towels and coating them with the oil and spice mix in a large bowl is a good way to involve younger children who might not be quite ready to work with knives.

In the French kitchen with kids cookbook by Mardi Michels

Excerpted from In the French Kitchen with Kids. Copyright © 2018 Mardi Michels. Photography © Kyla Zanardi. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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