Experiments in tinkering and thought

Steak Frites

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Today we tackle a classic.  I am not going to claim that it is an improvement, or the best version ever, but I did have some fun trying variations around the batter used for making the fries.  For the steak, I usually try to go as simple as possible and let the meat speak as it should.

So I wanted to get fries that were ideally crispy and flavourful. Generally speaking, when I have made fries that are simply fried, or even double fried, they would end up crisp for a very short time, generally about 5-10 minutes, and then become moist.  Some of the best crispy fries that I have had were very crispy and nicely flavoured, over at Poulet Bronzé, strangely enough Sushi Saint Jean also had delicious fries (but terrible everything else).  So to get them to be crispy, we need to batter them, and I experimented a bit with some batter.

The standard batter recipe that I got from surveying a few recipes online is just flour and water with spices.  I wanted to mix it up a bit, conformity is for boring people!

I wanted to use buttermilk instead of water for the batter to get some of that extra great milky taste, and the fries that are pictured are actually made using buttermilk as the only liquid in the batter.  As you can see, it makes almost tempura-like fries, with lots of batter on them.  This happens because the buttermilk is much thicker than water, and so the layer of batter that sticks is proportionally thicker.

In order to get some of the buttermilk taste without getting that overly thick layer of batter, I ended up putting a portion of buttermilk with beer as the remainder of the liquid, because beer batter fries are delicious.  I tried adding a bit of cracked wheat to add some texture to the batter.  I had mixed results with it.  It changed the texture a bit, but did not really contribute anything.

In the end, the fries were somewhat crispy, but the spices and seasoning were spot-on.  I think next time to get the ultimate crispy fries, the liquid needs to be only water (or beeeeeeer).

As for the steak, if I am preparing it in a pan, I will brown the outside in butter, and use Montreal Steak seasoning as a dry rub.  In this case though, I cooked the steaks on the BBQ with the help of my father-in-law.  You generally want to cook it in medium-high heat when cooking it in a pan, or high heat on the BBQ.  You want to brown the outside to get the best of the taste, but keep the inside minimally cooked (for rare, or medium).  I also had a herb butter.  I hand-mixed a branch of rosemary and some coarsely chopped garlic into a block of butter and let it sit for a few hours.


Steak Frites Recipe

Herb butter:

  • 1 branch of rosemary
  • 2 coarsely chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup of butter


  • 5 Russet potatoes
  • 2 cups flour
  • (1/4 cup cracked wheat)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp hickory smoked salt
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1.5 cup beer
  • 3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 branches of rosemary

Mushroom sauce:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pack of white button mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • a branch of rosemary
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • Green beans

The herb butter was made by hand-mixing the butter with the rosemary and the garlic.  The longer it stays in there, the more the flavour will come out, so try to prepare it beforehand.

I tried to cut the fries fairly small width and thickness-wise.  They were then rinsed for a few minutes to rinse off the starch.  The potatoes then need to dry before you batter them, otherwise the batter will not stick as well to them, but also the oil will spatter everywhere and ruin those fine and beautiful hands of yours.  I cut them about one hour ahead, rinsed them, and then pat-dried the bulk of the water and let it air dry until you are ready to cook it.

Actually cooking the fries is fairly straightforward.  I used peanut oil, heated to 350-400F.  Just run the raw fry through the batter and drop it (carefully) into the oil.  They need to cook for about 5 minutes, but check them to make sure they are cooked, and adjust your time accordingly.  If you are not using a fryer, use a thermometer to carefully monitor the temperature.  If it gets too cold, you fries will suck up more oil and get really greasy.  If it is too hot, the outside may start to burn before the inside fully cooks.  Depending on how much batter you like on the fries, you can either leave all of the batter on, or scrape some of it off.

The mushroom sauce was made by simply chopping the mushrooms into small pieces.  They were fried in a bit of oil with the rosemary. The rosemary was removed, the wine was then added and reduced.  It was salted.  The corn starch was dissolved in a bit of cold water, and then added to the sauce, brought to a boil and removed from heat.

The green beans were very simple.  They were boiled in salted water after having cut off the top for about 8 minutes.


Author: Tinker

I am finishing a PhD at Université de Montréal, following a bachelors in Biochemistry as well as a Masters degree in chemistry from McGill. I have many hobbies that are centered around experiments of some sort (either electronics, coding, cooking, construction, plants, acrobatics, etc.). I also have been doing tai chi for the last decade, and intermittently doing kung fu as well.

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