Steak frites, the French version of meat and potatoes found often on the menu at brasseries throughout Europe, is traditionally a juicy, pan-seared steak with a butter sauce and deep-fried, skinny French fries. In this home-friendly rendition, we're making steak frites in under 40 minutes, in one sheet pan, without the fuss and mess of deep-frying. With a few key tricks, you can successfully make this restaurant staple at home on a weeknight.
Why a Sheet Pan Method?
The traditional stovetop recipe requires at least two pans and two completely different cooking methods. Here, we're using one pan, but you'll be using two functions in the oven: baking and broiling. Fear not if you haven't broiled much before — technically, broiling means that the heat only comes from the oven's heating element to the top of the food, unlike baking, which is all-around heat. Broiling is always very hot, making it great for cooking the outside of foods before the inside, which makes it ideal for searing the steak and crisping up pre-baked potatoes.
Use Both Parchment Paper and Aluminum Foil
When I teach cooking classes, I always say "different surfaces, different purposes." I can't think of a better example than this recipe. Good French fries can be fried once or even baked once, but great French fries — classic French fries — need a second round of crackling-hot heat to make the outsides brown and crisp.
In this recipe the potatoes get baked twice. In their first baking (sans steak), the potatoes have time to cook through but not get browned, so I bake them on parchment paper, as it's nonstick and won't encourage browning as much as foil. For the steak, though, aluminum foil is key. Part of what makes the steak so good is the sear, and to get that char, you need serious heat, which parchment paper can't take without burning up. So layer up to produce the desired effect.
Invest in the Steak
I know that I am courting controversy with this suggestion, since plenty of heritage recipes use less-expensive cuts of meat than what I suggest here, but we're calling for thick sirloin or rib-eye steaks for specific reasons. You want meat that is both well-marbled and tender, with a layer of fat around the perimeter, so it will stand up to the broiler and soak up the butter.
Steak size matters, but with this recipe and method you can make two different sizes at the same time. Perhaps someone wants a bigger cut and someone wants a small portion, or you want one steak more well-done than the other. Use the poke test to keep an eye on the level of doneness.
The Poke Test
Use the "poke test" to gauge the level of doneness, which compares the tension you feel in your palm to the tension you feel when you poke your meat. Simply take your thumb and touch it to your index finger. Then, with the index finger of the other hand, touch the fleshy part at the base of your thumb. Kind of squishy, right? Compare the way this feels to the tension you experience when you poke the center of your cut of meat.
- If it feels just as squishy, the meat is rare.
- For medium-rare, touch your thumb to your middle finger.
- For well-done, touch your thumb to your pinky.
Make It Yours
If you want, mince a small handful of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley instead of the thyme. You can also use 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary, or some finely minced fresh rosemary leaves instead. Try five or six leaves of fresh sage, finely minced for a smoky hint. Substitute a splash of a flavor-packed dry white wine like a white Burgundy for the lemon juice. Use 1/4 red onion, very finely minced or grated, instead of the shallot, but be careful — onions are far more potent than shallots in taste and fragrance.
How To Make Sheet Pan Steak Frites
Makes 2 servings
What You Need
1 1/2 pounds
Russet potatoes (about 3 large)
olive oil or any neutral oil, such as canola, divided
(6- to 8-ounce) sirloin or boneless rib-eye steaks, approximately 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick, at room temperature
unsalted butter, at room temperature
Leaves of 3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme
kosher salt, divided
coarsely ground black pepper
Rimmed baking sheet
Prep the baking sheet: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to to 375°F. Spray a rimmed baking pan with cooking spray. Line it with 2 layers of aluminum foil that fit neatly inside the rims, then place a sheet of parchment paper on top.
Prepare the fries: Prepare a large bowl filled with cold water. Stack several paper towels on top of one another and place them nearby. Peel and cut the potatoes into shoestring fries, about 1/4-inch by 1/8-inch by the length of the potato, adding them to the cold water as you work so they don't discolor. Remove the potatoes from water and transfer to the paper towels to dry. Discard the water from the bowl, wipe it dry, and then transfer the cut potatoes back into it. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and gently toss to coat.
Par-bake the fries: Arrange the fries on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake without stirring or turning until the tip of a sharp knife pierces the fries without much resistance, 10 to 12 minutes. Wipe the potato bowl clean and set aside. While the fries bake, make the shallot butter and season the steaks.
Make the shallot butter: Place the butter into the reserved potato bowl. Peel and dice, mince, or grate the shallot and add to the bowl. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the bowl. Add the thyme and 1 teaspoon of the salt, then mash well to to fully combine; set aside.
Season the steaks: Place the steaks on the cutting board, and using the tip of a sharp knife, make 8 to 10 punctures in each. Cut off any visible gristle or silverskin, but leave on the flavor-rich fatty edge; set aside. Sprinkle both sides of the steaks with 2 teaspoons of the salt and the pepper. Place the steaks on a large plate, then wash and dry the cutting board.
Move the fries: Remove the fries from the oven and place the baking sheet on a heatproof surface. Increase the oven temperature to broil. With a flat spatula or tongs, carefully transfer the fries to the dry cutting board. Discard the parchment paper, leaving the aluminum foil layers. Pour 1/2 tablespoon of the oil onto the foil, just enough to coat it.
Broil the steaks: Place the steaks on the baking sheet. Broil for 4 minutes. Flip the steaks and broil about 4 minutes longer for rare (115 to 120°F), 5 to 6 minutes for medium-rare (120 to 125°F), and 6 to 7 minutes for medium (130 to 135°F). Timing will depend on the thickness of the steaks, so check on them early if you have thin steaks or prefer a more rare steak. If your steaks are different sizes or you desire a different doneness in each one, transfer each steak as they are ready to a serving plate.
Rest the steaks: Carefully remove the top aluminum foil layer from the sheet pan and pour any accumulated juices evenly over the steaks. Leave the last layer of foil on the pan. Top each hot steak with about 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture, tent each steak with a fresh piece of foil, and allow the meat to rest as the butter melts in. Meanwhile, finish the fries.
Finish the fries: Pour the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons of oil onto the remaining sheet of foil on the baking sheet, and brush or tilt to coat. Return the fries to the baking sheet and arrange them in a single layer. Broil for 4 minutes. Turn them over using a spatula, or stir gently. Broil until they are as crisp and as browned you like, 2 to 4 minutes more. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and serve with the steaks.
Storage: This recipe is best made and served immediately, as leftovers do not keep well.