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
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.