Steak Frites with Mayonnaise

Olivier picked up their bottle of red wine and refilled their glasses. “Here comes your dinner. Bon appétit.” He smiled and left.

A steak frites was placed in front of Beauvoir, sizzling from the charcoal fire, the French fries thin and seasoned, a small dish of mayonnaise waiting for them on the side. Beauvoir sipped his wine, swirling the dark liquid around lazily and looked into the fire. This was heaven. It’d been a long, cold day but it was finally over. Now he and Gamache could talk and chew over the case.

It was Beauvoir’s favorite part of the job. And if it came with a charcoal steak, fries, wine, and a lively fire, so much the better.
—A Fatal Grace
steak frites
Makes 2 servings

For the Homemade Mayonnaise

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Cayenne pepper

For the Frites and Steak

  • 1 large Russet or Yukon Gold potato (10 ounces/280 g)
  • 2 cups (.5 liter) peanut or vegetable oil, or as needed
  • 2 sirloin or New York strip steaks, each about 6 ounces (170 g) and ½ inch (1½) cm thick
  • Sea salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper

1. Make the mayonnaise: Whisk the egg yolk, lemon juice, mustard, and 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil together in a small bowl until very well blended. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons vegetable oil with the olive oil and then dribble, almost drop by drop, into the mustard mixture very slowly while whisking vigorously and constantly to emulsify. (Rest the mixing bowl on a coil of a well-dampened kitchen towel to keep the bowl steady while whisking.) When about half the oil has been added, you may begin adding the oil in a slow, steady drizzle.

2. When all the oil has been added, season the mayonnaise with salt and cayenne. Refrigerate the mayonnaise until needed, up to 1 day.

3. Cut and blanch the fries: Using a mandoline cutting tool or a knife, cut the potato into 1/8 x 1/8-inch (.3 x .3-cm) strips. (Leave the peel on if you like. Don’t worry, if working with a knife, that the strips are not perfectly even. Double frying will make sure they all come out perfectly cooked.)

4. Pour enough oil into a deep, wide, heavy skillet (cast iron works very well) to fill by about 2 inches. Heat over medium heat to 275°F (135°C). If you don’t have a deep-frying thermometer, use this simple test to tell whether the oil is ready: Dip the end of one of the potato sticks into the oil; it should give off a slow, steady stream of bubbles—it should not just sit there or sizzle wildly. Add about half the potato sticks and cook, stirring often, until they are limp and tender, about 4 minutes. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel–lined baking sheet. Wait a minute or two for the oil to reheat and fry and drain the remaining potatoes. Turn the heat off under the oil. The oil and potatoes can be left at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.

Note: You may use a countertop deep fryer to make the fries. Simply follow the manufacturer’s directions.

5. Season the steak: Rub a generous amount of coarse sea salt (Maldon Sea Salt works beautifully) and coarsely ground pepper into both sides of the steak. Leave at room temperature for up to 30 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 2 hours, but, if refrigerated, remove the steaks about 30 minutes before cooking and allow to come to room temperature.

6. Bring it all together: Spoon the mayonnaise into little serving dishes and set aside. Heat a lightly oiled cast-iron or grill pan for the steak over medium-high heat. At the same time, reheat the oil in the pan to 350°F (177°C).

7. When the steak pan is good and hot, add the steaks and cook, turning only once, until well marked (grill pan) or seared (cast-iron pan) on both sides and cooked to medium-rare (quite pink but cooked in the center). It is difficult to measure steaks this thin for doneness with an instant-read thermometer, but 3 to 4 minutes on each side should give you a medium-rare steak; test for doneness by poking the steaks in a couple of places. They should feel somewhat firm but springy when done. Resist the urge to move the steaks around as they cook. They will take on more color and flavor if left alone while they cook.

8. Transfer the steaks to serving plates. By now the oil should be heated to about 375°F (191°C). While the steaks are resting, carefully slip about half of the blanched potatoes into the hot oil. Stir them gently until they are crisp and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer them to a paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain and fry the remaining potatoes.

9. Salt the fried potatoes while hot and pile them alongside the steaks. Serve with the homemade mayonnaise.

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Discussion on “Steak Frites with Mayonnaise

  1. Kristine Williams says:

    My favorite meal! With a (very small) watercress salad on the side….

  2. Lana says:

    Ah, I would love to live in Three Pines! I am looking forward to the next book and the next recipe!!

  3. Anjali Thomas says:

    Whenever I read books from this series (I’ve read and loved them all.) my mouth always waters when I read about the food served. A recipe book is a GREAT idea. French Canadians seem to have more pleasure mixed with their food rituals than we Anglais.

  4. Cynthia Carr says:

    What a great addition to have the recipes for foods from my favorite of all time mystery books. Louise Penny, words can never express how much joy, satisfaction and food for thought I receive from reading your books. You give so much to us, your readers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. May you find continued strength, courage and joy as you and Michael travel life’s challenging road. Your great love for each other and generosity of sharing shines out and brightens the world.

  5. Elaide Gahn says:

    I have all of Ms. Penny’s books on my Kindle and read them in order… twice, so far. What fun to fantasize about Three Pines being so close to the Vermont border; I live about 1-1/2 hrs. south in VT and have visited some of the places written about in Quebec. I cook my fries and steak in the manner described in this recipe, but haven’t yet made mayo from scratch. This is good stuff: food for both the mind and body.

  6. Dorrit Landmark says:

    Bought and read all your books,then brought them to my book club,where everybody thoroughly enjoyed them.looking forward to your new book.

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