In Sainte-Christophe-en-Brionnais, in the Bourgogne region of eastern France, at a place called Restaurant du Midi in the high street, I found steak frites that almost matched the ideal I remember from a weekend in Paris in 1970. The steak was a large thin sirloin which was, I thought, unusual because I had been led to believe that rump was always used. It was accompanied by the crispiest thin chips imaginable and, almost as important, soft lettuce, which used to be the only kind you could get before iceberg swept the board. Don’t try to cook more than two steaks in a pan or they will stew and not fry and brown.
2 x 250g rump or sirloin steaks, about 2cm thick, well marbled with fat
good pinch of salt
1/4 tsp Rick’s peppermix (see below)
2 tsp rapeseed oil
1 litre sunflower oil
500g maris piper potatoes, cut into sticks 4mm-5mm thick
1/2 soft round lettuce
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
big pinch salt
small pinch sugar
H Start with the frites. Heat the oil in a deep pan to 125C. Working in batches, cook the frites for about 3 minutes in the oil until they are limp and still pale. Drain each batch well on kitchen paper.
H Season the steaks well on both sides with salt and peppermix. Brush a ridged griddle pan with oil and place it over a high heat. When the pan is hot, lay the steaks on the pan and cook them for 1-2 minutes per side for rare, 2-2. minutes per side for medium or up to 4 minutes per side for well done, depending on the thickness.
H When the steaks are done, add the butter to the pan and turn the steaks over to coat. Transfer the steaks to a plate, cover with foil and leave to rest for 5 minutes at room temperature.
H While the steaks are resting, finish the frites. Heat the oil to 175C and cook them in batches until golden and crisp (about 2 minutes). Drain them on kitchen paper and season well with salt. Whisk together the salad dressing ingredients and serve the steak with the frites and the lettuce.
MY SECRET PEPPERMIX In a spice grinder place 1 chipotle chilli (seeds removed), 1 pasilla chilli (seeds removed), 2 tablespoons white peppercorns, 2 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns and 1 tablespoon salt. Blitz everything until combined.
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