Filet Bearnaise with Matchstick Frites

The March issue of Gourmet had a little recipe for steak béarnaise, with fried matchstick potatoes. It was kinda tucked in the middle, among all the other interesting French rustic meals hither and yon. How classic can you get? Meat and béarnaise, with fried potatoes. Steak frites with a twist.

Since March, I’ve probably made this recipe four times. I’ve made it more than any other idea from that magazine since I got my subscription this year.

Of course, I’ve personalized it a bit.

My grocery actually had a sale on fillet mignon tonight, which is kismet, as I was going to buy it anyway. Being a grocery instead of a high-end butchery, there was still silverskin and fat all along the fillet, so a bit of cleaning was in order

Then, a little seasoning of kosher salt, cayenne, onion powder, black pepper (semi-coarse), garlic powder, and paprika.

While the steaks sat in the spices, I pulled out the mandolin and cut the potatoes. The last time I tried to cut matchsticks on the mandolin, I shaved off the tips of three fingers. So, I grudgingly used the safety cage. I hate it — it’s noisy and inelegant and awkward…but I kept my blood away from the food this time, so I guess there’s a trade-off.

After throwing the matchsticks in a bowl of water (to wash off some starch, and keep them from going gray), I started the base for the béarnaise. 1/4 cup champagne vinegar, 1/4 cup sparkling wine.

Add a chopped shallot and a tablespoon of chopped tarragon

This will reduce until the half-cup or so become about two tablespoons of liquid. Talk about concentrated taste. The steaks, meanwhile, go on the grill.

I started the matchsticks while the steaks were cooking. One potato is pretty much two batches in my beat-up frier with oil set at 350 degrees. Fry until just barely golden, then dust generously with kosher salt. Real pommes frites would be sized somewhere between shoestring fries and steak fries, and would be done in a couple stages — an initial frying at 250 or so until cooked, then drained and rested until a final fry at 370 or so. But, matchsticks are meant to be crispy, and they’re very thin, so only one cooking stage was necessary.

The liquid was reduced at this point, so I took it off as it needs to be room temperature — or really, cool enough that it won’t coagulate egg yolks on contact.

The steaks were done, so off they sit, to rest a bit and reabsorb their juiciness

Time to tackle the béarnaise. The technique is very tricky, and a good judge of how good a foodie-cook one really is. The idea is to warm the vinegar/champagne reduction mixed with the egg yolks until it starts to get almost solid (which becomes basically a savory sabayonne), but it can’t hit the stage where it turns into hard-boiled-egg-yolks. There’s about a 5F degree temperature range to hit, and stay at, until all the yolk mixture has reached this stage. Then, butter is added as in a beurre blanc, and everything emulsifies into a wonderful, magical thing. It’s fun, but also a little nerve wracking. I’ve never, ever broken a beurre blanc sauce since I learned what it was. However, I’ve broken a béarnaise twice. The egg yolks add a dimension of heat-control even more fine than what a beurre blanc requires. But if you nail it, you feel like Joe DiMaggio on his wedding night.

First, three egg yolks per the two tablespoons of reduction

Then, I have a larger pan with simmering water in it. I hold the smaller béarnaise pan in the larger water pan and whisk until it hits a stage sort of like mayo and sort of like honey. I can sometimes just do this by sliding on and off a low burner, but the water pan makes the fine control a little easier. After whisking like crazy (the whisking actually puts some air into the béarnaise, which makes things even more delicate and crazy-good), it hits a stage like this:

Now, I’ve had little, tiny chunks of solidification before, and that can still be salvaged by throwing in chunks of butter immediately and whisking the crap out of any solid pieces. It’s not the end of the world and no one will know but you and me. But (I humbly say) I absolutely nailed it this time. So, in goes a stick of butter, a couple tablespoons at a time, whisking away.

When the last tablespoon is in, add a tablespoon of chopped tarragon, and the juice of half a lemon.

Then, steak on the plate, béarnaise over the top, then matchstick frites garnished over everything.


  1. MHA says:

    This looks absolutely spectacular! I’ve made hollandaise lots of times, but have never tried bearnaise. Soon, perhaps. :-) Thanks!

  2. jshively says:

    That looks amazing! I am in complete awe of the photos especially the egg falling out of its shell.

  3. I don’t even like steak and this has got my mouth watering like crazy! Everything looks gorgeous!

    Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll!

  4. Fotocuisine says:

    Mark- Thank you! You know, I really don’t like hollandaise, but Bearnaise is soo good. I am wondering if I try hollandaise again (it has been many years since I last tried it and my tastes have grown so much) if I would really like it :)

    J – Thank you! yeah that egg one was some really really quick timing and bending around his arms and almost falling off my step ladder to get low enough :)

    Jenn – Hahah you know I hate looking back at these entries the next day cause I could so eat it all over again. And this dish, is one of his most fattening dishes he makes. le sigh ;)
    oh and the blogroll, that is an awesome thing you have set up there!

  5. Niamh says:

    This looks fantastic!

  6. tara says:

    I am currently expecting our second child and so have had to stay away from such lovely things as hollondaise, béarnaise and a medium-rare steak. I had been doing well handling my cravings, but oh, how these photos brought them back full force. Just a gorgeous photo essay and a wholly tempting meal.

  7. petermarcus says:

    Niamh — Thank you!

    tara — Yeah, I had to tiptoe around a menu when Christey was pregnant…twice in two years, too. But, I did find a place that sold pasteurized raw eggs from time to time, so the bearnaise or aioli wouldn’t have been a problem because of the yolks. She definitely needed meat toward the well-done, though.

  8. wow
    really – this is wonderful
    even beautiful – like, very very
    i’ve never ever made bernaise
    i wanna – but i’m nervous i’ll ruin it
    but i wanna

  9. petermarcus says:

    Claudia — It’s really not too terribly hard, it just takes some timing and attention. And even my couple broken bearnaise sauces still tasted good, they were just a little too gritty to look at for a wanna-be-perfectionist like myself ;)

    I agree the shots are really beautiful, especially to a foodie, but I think that’s much more Christey’s photography than my cooking. She can really capture the emotion of food, can’t she?

  10. nina says:

    I am dumb struck and drooling over this. If I had to have a last meal on earth, this would be it…..WOW.

  11. foodieguide says:

    Delicious! I grew up in Germany and so those matchsticks really remind me of great steak dinners. You can even get crisps/chips (depending on where you come from) in the shape of matchsticks (paprika being the best flavour of course)!

    Helen Yuet Ling

  12. Jonathan says:

    If I didn’t look a bit closer, I’d say that could almost double for an equally delicious piece of chocolate cake with creme anglaise! ha! that looks creamy, juicy and amazing. Love this combo when eating out.

  13. Deborah Dowd says:

    Love your step by step photos- you are clearly as good a photographer as you are a cook!

  14. petermarcus says:

    Nina — Wow, thanks! *blush*
    Foodie — You know, my Dad was born and raised in Germany (Leer, north of Bremen) and he likes those too. I might get my taste of them from him!
    Jon — Always a pleasure. I think that cake would make a wonderful paired dessert!
    Deborah — I will accept the compliments for the food, but compliments to the photography must go to my equally talented wife, who is as fanatic about photography as I am about food ;)

  15. Ayin says:

    hmm looks yummy… I love bearnaise too … but never make it self, buy finish powder hehe…
    you give idea to my dinner today…

    tnx for the step by step making home made bearnaise sauce, one day I’ll try it

  16. truenorth67 says:

    Okay, this steak deserves a double-drool!

  17. my heart’s beating so quick! that looks amazing. fantastic presentation.

  18. Learned about your site from Foodbuzz’s newsletter – great work! My husband and I were just talking about steak and bearnaise the other day and how we haven’t had it in a long time. Your recipe inspired me to make it soon!

  19. Gregory says:

    I just used the dry rub/seasoning you listed above and it was one of the best steaks I have ever had. My mouth is still watering from the smell and flavor of the steak.

  20. kat says:

    love the step-by-step….delicious!