Sunday, 24 February 2008

Cheap steak

I posted on steak a couple of days ago but Blogger wiped the lot for some unfathomable reason when I pressed the Publish button and I was so cross it's taken a full couple of days to resume.

Anyway, to start again, people think that steak is expensive but it needn't be if you use cheaper cuts. Here in France we have bavette, onglet and aiguillette. Back home there's minute steak and skirt (if you ask the butcher). All should be cut thinly so you really don't need that much (250-300g will easily serve 2)

A favourite French recipe is bavette aux echalotes (skirt with shallots) which could equally well be called bavette au vinaigre because it uses a full 75ml (about half a small wine glass) of red wine vinegar.

Sounds scary but here's how it works. You give the steak slices a bit of a bash with a meat mallet or rolling pin to make them even thinner, rub them lightly with oil, season them on both sides and set them aside (steak should always be cooked at room temperature)

You peel and slice 6-8 shallots - or a medium sized onion. You get your other ingredients ready - butter, red wine vinegar, tomato ketchup (yes, really), and some leftover red wine (or wine and beef stock)

You heat a frying pan until really hot - almost smoking. You lay in the steak slices and cook them for about a minute to a minute and a half each side, depending how well done you like your steak and set them aside on a warm plate.

Turn the heat down, add a bit more oil and butter and fry the shallots or onion for about 5 minutes or until soft then pour in half a small wineglass (75ml) of vinegar which will sizzle alarmingly. Press on and cook until the vinegar has almost evaporated then add a good tablespoon of ketchup and a good glug of wine (again about 75ml) or wine and stock. Cook for another couple of minutes then season with salt and pepper and taste.

If the sauce still tastes a bit sharp which it might if your wine is also a bit vinegary add a little more ketchup. If it needs rounding out (i.e. tastes a bit thin) whisk in a little butter. The sauce should be tangy but not mouth-puckeringly sour

When you've tweaked it to your satisfaction slip the steaks and their juices back into the pan and heat through for a minute. Then serve with a good dollop of mash if you've had the forethought to cook some. Or frites. Or a green salad if, like me, you're trying to lay off the spuds.

This seems to have turned into a recipe but it's really more of a guide to how the French tackle cheap cuts and manage to make them really tasty. Except no self-respecting Frenchman would use le ketchup, I'm sure.


cq said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cq said...

Sounds a lot like "Peppered Steak with Red Wine" from Beyond Baked Beans. One of my favourites :-)
Fiona, I seem to be the only one replying to this blog. But never mind. In true "frugal" fashion I picked up some Braising Steak from the supermarket at the end of the day when it was reduced. I have no idea how to cook it. All the suggestions Google brought up seem too complicated and i don't known which bits of the recipe to simplify. Do you have any suggestions? They would be mighty handy.

Fiona Beckett said...

I'd make a simple stew, cq. Just cut the meat up into chunks then brown it on all sides and transfer it to a casserole or other lidded pan. Fry up some sliced onions and maybe some carrots if you have some, add a tablespoon of flour to thicken then pour in about 300-500ml of stock or better still, stock and wine, beer or cider mixed. Then cook on a very low heat for about 2 1/2 hours - cheap cuts like braising steak need time. Obviously you can add other veggies (like turnips or swede)and the more you add the further your stew will stretch . . .

Charlie said...

You may be the only one replying but you're not the only one reading I promise. I've been reading this blog (since it was mentioned in the Times), I just haven't got into the idea that it's supposed to be a conversation yet.
Is stew really better after 2 1/2 hours? I usually just cut the meat very small because I know that after 1 1/2 hrs or so the smell will start to drive me mad...

Fiona Beckett said...

Good point, Charlie (about cutting the meat small). The only thing I would say is that it takes time for stew to acquire a really great texture - meat that's almost falling apart and a nice rich sauce. Needs obviously to cook very, very slowly. I always make more than we need for one meal then there's an instant meal for the following night - and maybe a couple for the freezer.

Dan said...

Certainly not the only one reading! Your blog's great, and I'm making the steak and shallots tonight!

Fiona Beckett said...

How did the steak go, Dan?