Sunday, January 3, 2010

French Bistro Steaks with Provencal Butter

Anchovies: Hairy. Salty. Fishy. Generally gross. So when I saw that I had to puree them into butter, I wasn't so psyched. I typically leave them out of just about any recipe that calls for them, including my "famous" homemade Caesar dressing. I've been making it sans anchovies for years and no one seems to mind.

During one of my first trips to Whole Foods, I decided to stock up a little on proteins so I wouldn't have to keep making separate trips every night I wanted to cook. So I bought the steak for this recipe and froze it so I would have it whenever I wanted it. The recipe calls for onglet or hanger steak, which Whole Foods didn't carry, so taking the butcher's advice, we chose another cut that was similar in that it was relatively thin, not particularly tender, but very flavorful. Unfortunately, since I bought the steak so long ago, the name of the cut escapes me now, but it looked similar to flank steak. I should really write these things down. 

I took the meat out of the freezer in the morning so it would defrost by that evening. To make the butter, I placed the anchovy fillets, capers, fresh chives, thyme, lemon zest, and pepper in a food processor:

and pulsed a few times to combine and to form a sort of paste. 

I know, what you're thinking...what in the world is that contraption? 

Before my mother bestowed upon me her 30-year-old food processors, I was using the attachments that came with Dan's immersion blender. This is a little mini food processor, and you attach the immersion blender to the top in order to use as it as the motor. Pretty neat if you ask me.

I added the softened butter and processed briefly in order to combine all of the ingredients. Despite the anchovies, the combination of the lemon and fresh thyme with the oniony chives smelled really lovely, and I kind of wanted to just spread this on some toast and eat it. Once the butter had come together in the food processor, I scraped it onto a strip of parchment paper and rolled and twisted it into a log. 

I put the butter in the fridge to keep cool while we finished making dinner.

Do you remember the classic postal service slogan? You know, the one that goes, "Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night... something something something..." Well, that's exactly what came to mind when Dan went outside to preheat the grill. It was wet, freezing cold, and pitch black. But did that mean we scrapped this plan and ordered Thai food instead? No ma'am. Dan donned his fleece, rain coat, and coal miner's forehead light (that's right, I said forehead light. Pictures to come.), and braved the backyard.

Dan preheated the grill and we brushed the steak with olive oil and then sprinkled both sides liberally with herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper. 

Since I like my steak a little more well cooked, we cut the large piece of steak into two smaller pieces so we could cook them for different lengths of time. We let the meat sit at room temperature for about 15 more minutes while the grill heated up.

Once it was fully preheated, Dan got grilling. Although I appreciate getting help in the kitchen, I generally like to do the majority of the cooking myself. But, given that I thought my toes would fall off if I had to spend more than 30 seconds outside, I left the actual cooking up to Dan and supervised...from a safe, warm distance, inside the kitchen. 

Please note the shiny light on his forehead

Dan takes his grilling seriously 

He grilled his piece for about 10 minutes total, and then brought it inside to rest, covered. My piece hung out on the grill for another 10-15 minutes until it was about medium-well. Although we had cut the steak into two smaller pieces, we had inadvertently chosen the thicker side as my piece, meaning it took even longer than expected.

Once both pieces of steak had been resting for about 10 minutes, I added a few slices of the cold butter to the hot steak and plated the rest of our dinner:

steak and taters 

I really wanted to like this dish considering that it involved steak and butter, and really, what could be better? But the steak, while cooked well, tasted incredibly fatty. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than when you're enjoying a lovely piece of steak, when all of a sudden you find yourself biting down on a piece of grissly meat. You then become faced with the problem of what to do with this completely inedible piece of fat that is rolling around in your mouth. Do you spit it into your napkin? Do you just swallow it with a gulp of water? Well, if you're a member of my family, you are probably going to take it out of your mouth and set it on the side of your plate, far away from the rest of your wonderful, edible meal. Classy and appetizing, I know.

The odd thing was, my steak did not have large pieces of fat running through it, because those are easily avoided. Rather, each piece just seemed to have an incredibly fatty texture to it, and not a whole lot of flavor.

On the other hand, the butter was pretty divine. The lemon really stood out, and the hint of onion was very nice. The anchovies melted right into the butter, adding a salty bite along with the vinegary capers. It was nicely balanced and I really enjoyed it.

Eventually my fork made its way over to Dan's plate to swipe some of his steak, which had a much better texture than my portion, and was quite delicious. Unfortunately, the herbs de Provence that we sprinkled directly on the steak prior to grilling were really overpowered by the butter, and I'm not sure how to combat this. Maybe next time I'll add some of the herbs to the butter itself. I also wish I had been able to find the exact steak Ina suggests using since it looks yummy in the photo, but this butter is so versatile you could really use it on any cut of steak, fish, or chicken, the latter of which we did the following night.

Make this when: you're craving a romantic trip to Paris and all you can afford is a black beret. Serve these with some shoestring potatoes and vous la, steak frites! 

Next Course: French Chocolate Bark


  1. All I can say is that Dan just might be a keeper!

  2. Hahaha that picture of Dan is priceless! The butter sounds super yummy and I think I might try it seeing as how it does not look too difficult!

    And just as a point contrary the allegations stated above...I always spit into a napkin.

  3. That picture of Dan is reminicent of a certain turkey frying a turkey who joined us for T-giving this year.
    So does this mean anchovies may find their way into your "Morgan" oh I mean Caesar???
    And she is correct she does spit into her napkin though sometimes it gets used to wipe the oil off of pizza slices...


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