Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Leeks Vinaigrette, Steak-Frites How-To

It's Tuesday again; in fact, it's Mardi Gras. If you're not being treated to a crepes dinner prepared by a French friend who's a superb cook (we are!), you could do worse than this Tuesday Night Bistro menu. The details:

Leeks Vinaigrette
serves two

4 small or 2 larger leeks

1 heaping tsp mustard (grain or Dijon)
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small clove garlic, very finely minced
2 Tbsp leek cooking liquid
pinch salt
freshly ground black pepper

2 eggs, poached (or "hard-boiled" to medium doneness)

Trim and clean the leeks: Remove tough outer layers (with large leeks you may need to remove three or four layers; save for stock). Remove darker greens, leaving the tender light green parts.

With small leeks, slice each leek up the center, leaving them attached at the root end. With larger leeks, cut the leeks in half the long way, then slice each half up the center. Wash well under running water, separating the leaves to remove any dirt.

Put about an inch of water and a pinch of salt in a large saucepan or skillet. Bring to a boil, and add the leeks--they may not seem to fit at first, but the tops will quickly wilt to allow you to fit them all in. Cover and simmer briskly for 5 to 8 minutes, until they are very tender.

Mix together all the dressing ingredients. When the leeks are tender remove them to a bowl. Add 2 Tbsp cooking liquid to the dressing. Pour over the leeks and toss gently.

To serve, place a portion of leeks in a small plate (a little gratin dish makes a nice presentation). Top with the poached egg, or chopped boiled egg, and a grind of fresh pepper. Serve with crusty bread or a piece of toast.

Some chopped fresh herbs, like chives, parsley, tarragon, or chervil make an attractive additional garnish, optional.

Steak-Frites with Shallot-Red Wine Sauce
serves two

2 "bistro" steaks, 6 to 7 ounces each, about 3/4-inch thick
salt and pepper
butter and oil (grapeseed or canola)

1 small shallot, chopped fine
couple sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tsp butter

for the oven fries:

2 large organic russet potatoes, peeled, cut to french-fry shape, rinsed and patted dry
2 Tbsp grapeseed, canola, or olive oil
salt and pepper
equipment: a large cast iron skillet

Start the fries: preheat your oven to 400 F. When it is hot, place the skillet in the oven for about five minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven (REMEMBER IT IS HOT!!), add the oil and swirl it around, add the potatoes and toss gently to coat with oil. Return the skillet to the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the fries so they brown evenly. Cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. Salt only after cooking so they stay crisp.
Note: If the fries are sticking to the pan after 20 minutes, don't force it in trying to turn them. Leave them a few more minutes; they will release from the pan as they start to brown. Also: if you have a convection oven, you can put the fan on towards the end of cooking to really crisp the fries.

For the steak: Salt and pepper the steaks on both sides. Heat a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add about a teaspoon of butter and a teaspoon of oil. Add the steaks and cook till brown but still rare to medium-rare, 2 to 3 minutes per side (if your steaks are thicker than the suggested 3/4-inch, they will, of course, take longer). Remove the steaks to a warm plate and let rest while you prepare the sauce.

Add 1 tsp butter to the skillet, and the shallots. Cook over medium-low until the shallots are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spatula. Reduce the wine by half, then add the stock and the thyme, and reduce the sauce by half, or to desired thickness. Pour in any juices that have come off the steaks. Swirl in a teaspoon of butter, and serve.

Great bistro wines: A cru beaujolais, like a brouilly or julienas; an inexpensive bordeaux--cotes de bourg, cotes de blaye, cotes de castillon, montagne st. emilion; or of course, cotes du rhone. In a "locavore" mood, I would happily pour Nan Bailly's Voyageur .

Happy bistro, one and all.

Text and photos copyright 2009 by Brett Laidlaw


Anonymous said...

You have done it again guys!
I have to yet again raid my refridgerator once again after reading this post. Mmmmm the leeks and the steaks, I can almost smell them!
I have had a number of bad experiences with hanger steaks in restaurants - being extremily tough, I guess due to over cooking.


Trout Caviar said...

Hey, ESP: Thanks for writing. I've had some dismal hanger steaks, too, including perhaps the toughest piece of meat I've ever put knife and fork to, at a bistro right across the Seine from the Louvre. Fortunately, being able to walk out after lunch into the streets of Paris helped salvage the day. If you try this bistro chuck steak, let me know how it turns out, will you please?

Cheers~ Brett

Wendy Berrell said...

Great blog here. I am going to throw a link up - hope that's okay. I chat on food know and then at my own blogspot. Thanks for putting this together.

Trout Caviar said...

Thanks for your note, Wendy. I like your tying room with its thought-provoking graffiti. And I'm reminded that I need to get busy at the vise, myself. The thaw will come, then the streams will clear. Wonderful to think of stepping into those clear cold waters, casting to rising brook trout again. All best~ Brett