From America's Test Kitchen Season 11: Steak Frites
Too often, steak frites in American restaurants miss the mark. The fries are usually too soggy and the steak just isn’t as flavorful as it should be. We wanted to re-create the steak frites of our Parisian dreams, with perfectly cooked steak and fries that are fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside, even when bathed in juices from the meat.
For our fries, we liked high-starch russet potatoes and found that double-cooking, or a low-temperature “blanch” in oil followed by a high-temperature “fry,” yielded the crispiest exterior and fluffiest interior. Cooking multiple small batches of fries ensured that the oil’s temperature wouldn’t plunge too much. Soaking the potatoes in cold water before they were cooked further improved their crispiness, and a “rest” between the first and second frying allowed the fries to develop a thin coating of starch, which even further improved their crispiness. Tossing them with additional starch—in the form of cornstarch—made them perfect.
In France, steak frites is usually prepared with a cut called entrecôte (literally, “between the ribs”), which is a French cut you won’t find in the States, but is actually quite similar to our rib-eye steak. Choosing the right size—or cutting them to fit—meant we could sear four steaks at once in a large skillet. Capped with a quick herb butter, the steaks tasted just like the bistro classic of our dreams.
Make sure to dry the potatoes well before tossing them with the cornstarch. For safety, use a Dutch oven with a capacity of at least 7 quarts. Use refined peanut oil (such as Planters) to fry the potatoes, not toasted peanut oil. A 12-inch skillet is essential for cooking four steaks at once. The recipe can be prepared through step 4 up to 2 hours in advance; turn off the heat under the oil, turning the heat back to medium when you start step 6. The ingredients can be halved to serve two-keep the oil amount the same and forgo blanching and frying the potatoes in batches. If you prefer not to fry, follow our recipe for Oven Fries, (see related recipe).