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Monday, 7 February 2011

Steak with Peppercorn Sauce & French Fries

This is such a gastropub classic and one of my all time favourites. Nothing says "special treat" like a medium-rare steak bathed in spicy peppercorn sauce and accompanied by thin, crisp french fries. A glass of wine wouldn't go amiss, either. You know the old saying: "steak and red wine, and you'll be fine". I couldn't agree more! Make sure you use the best meat you can afford. I used rump steak, obtained from a outdoor-reared, organically fed Red Devon cow, hung for four weeks (produced by my boyfriend's mum farm, luckily enough for me!).

INGREDIENTS (for two people)
  • 2 rump steaks (you can of course use fillet, sirloin or any other cut you prefer)
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 small shallot
  • Half a glass of white wine
  • 150 ml of double cream
  • Half a chicken/beef stock cube (preferably organic)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of french mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground peppercorn 
  • 10 whole black/green peppercorns
  • 1 sprig of dried rosemary
  • Some olive oil for the beef marinade
  • Some sunflower oil for frying
  • Salt 
My secret for obtaining incredibly crisp french fries is cooking them three times. Not the quickest way to prepare dinner, I know, however this is a special dish that should require your full attention and dedication. In addition, the great thing is that you can cook the potatoes up to the second stage in advance, and then do the final round of frying just before serving them, so it's not all that tricky to pull off if you have guests.

Start by peeling your potatoes and cutting them into thin strips (try to make them all roughly the same size). Wash them well under a running tap to remove all the starch, then plunge them in boiling water for about 2 minutes; drain them well and leave them to dry out completely on a clean tea towel.

Heat some sunflower oil in a suitable (i.e. deep) frying pan, enough so that the fries will be completely submerged when you drop them in. The oil should not be too hot at this second cooking stage; you can test it by dropping one of the fries in. If it comes up on the surface with little bubbles forming gently around it, then the temperature is perfect. Cook the fries in batches, in order not to overcrowd the pan, until cooked through and soft, but still pale - as you can see in the picture below. Drain them from the oil with a slotted spoon and reserve for later. 
Now the steak! I recommend you marinade the meat for a couple of hours before cooking it, to intensify the flavour. Do this outside the fridge, so that it can be brought to room temperature, in the meantime; this is important to ensure the steak cooks evenly and it is not stone cold inside, should you wish to serve it rare or medium-rare. For the marinade, simply rub the steak with ground black pepper, olive oil and rosemary.   
Get a non-stick pan nice and hot (this is pivotal, if the pan is still cold the steak will not sear, but boil in its juices!) and cook the steak to your liking - in my case, medium-rare. Once it is cooked, transfer it to a warm plate, cover it with tinfoil and leave it to rest while you make the sauce and finish off the fries.
In the same pan you have used to cook the steak, place the shallot, finely chopped, and let it soften at gentle heat. Add a knob of butter if needed, then white wine; the latter should be left to evaporate gently, deglazing the pan from all its sticky, delicious meat juices. Next, add about 100 ml of boiling water and crumble the stock cube in, then let it reduce to a thick gravy. Finally, stir in the double cream, mustard and peppercorns and taste to adjust the seasoning. You should end up with a creamy, thick sauce.
Cover the sauce with a lid and keep warm. Get the sunflower oil nice and hot once again, and plunge your chips in for the third and final round of cooking. Each batch will turn golden and crisp in 60/90 seconds, and most importantly it will stay this way :-)

To serve, transfer your steak to a clean plate: any juices that will have collected in the plate where the steak has rested, please make sure you add to your sauce! Do not commit the sacrilege to waste them ;-).  Pour the sauce over the steak and serve any that is left on the side. Add the the french fries, which you would have seasoned with salt and...bon app├ętit! 

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