Steak Frites with Mayonnaise

Olivier picked up their bottle of red wine and refilled their glasses. “Here comes your dinner. Bon appétit.” He smiled and left.

A steak frites was placed in front of Beauvoir, sizzling from the charcoal fire, the French fries thin and seasoned, a small dish of mayonnaise waiting for them on the side. Beauvoir sipped his wine, swirling the dark liquid around lazily and looked into the fire. This was heaven. It’d been a long, cold day but it was finally over. Now he and Gamache could talk and chew over the case.

It was Beauvoir’s favorite part of the job. And if it came with a charcoal steak, fries, wine, and a lively fire, so much the better.
—A Fatal Grace
steak frites
Makes 2 servings

For the Homemade Mayonnaise

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Cayenne pepper

For the Frites and Steak

  • 1 large Russet or Yukon Gold potato (10 ounces/280 g)
  • 2 cups (.5 liter) peanut or vegetable oil, or as needed
  • 2 sirloin or New York strip steaks, each about 6 ounces (170 g) and ½ inch (1½) cm thick
  • Sea salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper

1. Make the mayonnaise: Whisk the egg yolk, lemon juice, mustard, and 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil together in a small bowl until very well blended. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons vegetable oil with the olive oil and then dribble, almost drop by drop, into the mustard mixture very slowly while whisking vigorously and constantly to emulsify. (Rest the mixing bowl on a coil of a well-dampened kitchen towel to keep the bowl steady while whisking.) When about half the oil has been added, you may begin adding the oil in a slow, steady drizzle.

2. When all the oil has been added, season the mayonnaise with salt and cayenne. Refrigerate the mayonnaise until needed, up to 1 day.

3. Cut and blanch the fries: Using a mandoline cutting tool or a knife, cut the potato into 1/8 x 1/8-inch (.3 x .3-cm) strips. (Leave the peel on if you like. Don’t worry, if working with a knife, that the strips are not perfectly even. Double frying will make sure they all come out perfectly cooked.)

4. Pour enough oil into a deep, wide, heavy skillet (cast iron works very well) to fill by about 2 inches. Heat over medium heat to 275°F (135°C). If you don’t have a deep-frying thermometer, use this simple test to tell whether the oil is ready: Dip the end of one of the potato sticks into the oil; it should give off a slow, steady stream of bubbles—it should not just sit there or sizzle wildly. Add about half the potato sticks and cook, stirring often, until they are limp and tender, about 4 minutes. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel–lined baking sheet. Wait a minute or two for the oil to reheat and fry and drain the remaining potatoes. Turn the heat off under the oil. The oil and potatoes can be left at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.

Note: You may use a countertop deep fryer to make the fries. Simply follow the manufacturer’s directions.

5. Season the steak: Rub a generous amount of coarse sea salt (Maldon Sea Salt works beautifully) and coarsely ground pepper into both sides of the steak. Leave at room temperature for up to 30 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 2 hours, but, if refrigerated, remove the steaks about 30 minutes before cooking and allow to come to room temperature.

6. Bring it all together: Spoon the mayonnaise into little serving dishes and set aside. Heat a lightly oiled cast-iron or grill pan for the steak over medium-high heat. At the same time, reheat the oil in the pan to 350°F (177°C).

7. When the steak pan is good and hot, add the steaks and cook, turning only once, until well marked (grill pan) or seared (cast-iron pan) on both sides and cooked to medium-rare (quite pink but cooked in the center). It is difficult to measure steaks this thin for doneness with an instant-read thermometer, but 3 to 4 minutes on each side should give you a medium-rare steak; test for doneness by poking the steaks in a couple of places. They should feel somewhat firm but springy when done. Resist the urge to move the steaks around as they cook. They will take on more color and flavor if left alone while they cook.

8. Transfer the steaks to serving plates. By now the oil should be heated to about 375°F (191°C). While the steaks are resting, carefully slip about half of the blanched potatoes into the hot oil. Stir them gently until they are crisp and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer them to a paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain and fry the remaining potatoes.

9. Salt the fried potatoes while hot and pile them alongside the steaks. Serve with the homemade mayonnaise.

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Discussion on “Steak Frites with Mayonnaise

  1. Stella says:

    I just bought A Fatal Grace. The first Gamache Book I read was How The Light Gets In. Then I read The Long Way Home. That is when I decided to find the older books not available in my library. I find Still Life on Amazon and read it. Now I just received A Fatal Grace. I am going to save this post and when I come to this passage in the book, plan a meal.

  2. Janet Magina says:

    I also read “How the Light Gets In” first and fell in love with your writing. I went back and started to read your books in order and have loved every one. Now I am back to “How the Light Gets In” and am enjoying it even more now that I know the back story. All the food references make me hungry; can’t wait to go to Quebec City in September for our 25th Anniversary.

    • Emerald Murphy says:

      The food in the old part Quebec City is fabulous, as is the architecture in the old city – and you must stay in the old City. I went last year with a friend and we arranged a private literary tour through the tourism office, of Ms. Penny’s book. The tour leader was amazing – a retired teacher of English (she was very French) and passionate about Ms. Penny’s books. We had a private tour of the “Lit and His!” I recommend that you leave time to go to Isle d’Orleans – it’s about half an hour east of Quebec City, and very, very old and quaint – a tiny island with 7 parishes, each with its own church! Enjoy your trip.

  3. Elina Mavromatis says:

    Could one ask for better company in which to enjoy this???

    This sounds so amazingly delicious! IMHO a field green salad with balsamic vinagrette would make it perfect!

  4. Stephanie Faulkner says:

    A quick note (voice of experience :-( ) … Have the ingredients for the mayo at room temp before starting to assemble the recipe. Won’t work with cold eggs especially – it will be runny – not fluffy. Also, if you have a hand blender and the tall cup that usually comes with it, dump all the ingredients (again-room temp) in, lower the blender to the bottom, turn on high and s l o w l y draw it up until it reaches then top. Instant mayo. Delicious.

  5. Good books, good food and the company of friends and neighbors what can we ask for more?
    I love Three Pines! I love to eat some Steak frites! I love the books!

  6. Shirley says:

    The food is one of the best things about the Gamache books! And the people who eat it together. It always seems so cozy and homey in 3 Pines even when there is a murderer lurking around!

  7. Christine Hagen says:

    Well, I know what I’M making for supper tonight!

  8. Julie says:

    Love it when Beauvoir orders food – he’s a real carnivore, and I love his taste in steaks and – er – vegetables, hahaha. A perfectly cooked steak and a glass of red wine – heaven, indeed!

  9. Iona (Joni) McMillan says:

    OMG, Louise! You are my new best friend! Merci bien with glitter for the mayonnaise recipe!
    We were RCAF and living across the French/Belgium border in Florenville, Belg. while my husband worked at #1 Wing, Marville, France 1958 – 1962. Every Wednesday was Market Day in the main square in Florenville and the most wonderful frites stand was there all day and just across the street from our apartment. I would run over there in the early evening with a pot for the frites and a half-pint mason jar for the mayonnaise. We usually had farmer’s sausage with dinner(they were garlicky and with herbs – divine) that evening. I have never been able to find a recipe for the special mayonnaise they used. I even googled it to no avail so I am in your debt. My sons visit every few weeks and will be ecstatic when I make fries (I double fry just like Madame at the frites stand). I pre-ordered A Great Reckoning and am eagerly awaiting its arrival. Sorry to rattle on but I’m just so excited about the mayonnaise!

  10. Anna says:

    Now I am just plain hungry! I love a good steak but apparently my cholesterol does not…perhaps if I alternate with salmon my GP will be happy. As always the food is amazing. Louise manages to evoke all the senses and emotions in her novels, that is why they draw in so well.

  11. Elle Baker says:

    Love the mayo recipe. It sounds just perfect and will go delightfully with a good steak and those hand cut fries…I like em with skins on. Thanks for these reminders of all the great food in the Gamache books.

  12. Skye Lavoie says:

    Sounds divine and I will be trying this. I have read all of the Gamache books (in order) and 3 Pines is as dear to my heart as my own grandmothers’ house.

  13. Ann Lemieux says:

    Have just read your first two books. Love the humour….and will try the recipes!
    Thank you for a wonderful read, and great characters!

  14. Judy Schatz says:

    It’s wonderful to get these recipes – and to enjoy some of the food scenes all over again! I wish I were there right now, with the lovely people of Three Pines around me, the fire blazing, and a licorice pipe in my hand…

  15. Peggy Dalberto says:

    I wait eagerly each August for the newest book by Louise Penny. The food adds the perfect finish to each story. I most times listen to the audiobook while working or driving and especially in winter her books help keep me sane.

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