The French bistro classic, steak frites, just means steak with fries. And as simple as it sounds, there's a certain magic that must go into it to make the dish just so. America's Test Kitchen has thought out every element, from the meat to the potatoes to the sauce. Here it is -- it's worth every second.
Make sure to dry the potatoes well before tossing them with the cornstarch. For safety, use a Dutch oven with a capacity of at least 7 quarts. Use refined peanut oil (such as Planters) to fry the potatoes, not toasted peanut oil. A 12-inch skillet is essential for cooking four steaks at once. The recipe can be prepared through step 4 up to 2 hours in advance; turn off the heat under the oil, turning the heat back to medium when you start step 6. The ingredients can be halved to serve two-keep the oil amount the same and forgo blanching and frying the potatoes in batches.
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 large), scrubbed, sides squared off and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch by 1/4-inch fries (see illustration below)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 quarts peanut oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 boneless strip or rib-eye steaks (1 pound each), cut in half (see photo below)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 medium shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Rinse cut potatoes in large bowl under cold running water until water turns clear. Cover with cold water and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.
Pour off water, spread potatoes onto kitchen towels, and thoroughly dry. Transfer potatoes to large bowl and toss with cornstarch until evenly coated. Transfer potatoes to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and let rest until fine white coating forms, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven fitted with clip-on-the-pot candy thermometer, heat peanut oil over medium heat to 325 degrees.
Add half of potatoes, a handful at a time, to hot oil and increase heat to high. Fry, stirring with mesh spider or large-hole slotted spoon, until potatoes start to turn from white to blond, 4 to 5 minutes. (Oil temperature will drop about 75 degrees during this frying.) Transfer fries to thick paper bag or paper towels. Return oil to 325 degrees and repeat with remaining potatoes. Reduce heat to medium and let fries cool while cooking steaks, at least 10 minutes.
Heat vegetable oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until smoking.
Meanwhile, season steaks with salt and pepper. Lay steaks in pan, leaving 1/4 inch between them. Cook, not moving steaks, until well browned, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, flip steaks and continue to cook until instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 120 degrees for rare to medium-rare, 3 to 7 minutes. Transfer steaks to large plate, top with butter, and tent loosely with foil; let rest while finishing fries.
Increase heat under Dutch oven to high and heat oil to 375 degrees. Add half of fries, a handful at a time, and fry until golden brown and puffed, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to thick paper bag or paper towels. Return oil to 375 degrees and repeat with remaining fries. Season fries with salt and serve immediately with steaks.
For Herb Butter: Combine all ingredients in medium bowl.