Translating Steak Frites

A cook explores the global appeal of the classic meat-and-potatoes combination.

Steak and potatoes. This simple, wine-friendly union is enjoying a fin de siècle resurgence around the world--from French steak frites (beef steak and fries) to Argentinean filet mignon and potato frittata. What accounts for the popularity of the combination? First, there's the irresistible contrast of textures and flavors: the softly crisp sweetness of the potatoes, the chewy succulence of the meat. Then there's the gratification of a dish that blithely ignores nutritionally correct levels of calories and fat grams. There's even a touch of politics: the combination cuts across socioeconomic strata and international borders, a democratic pairing equally great at haute restaurants or homey bistros. The following recipes take you on a global tour of steak-and-potato interpretations, touching down in six regions: North America, North Africa, Argentina, India, Japan and, of course, France. Taken together, they offer proof that when two foods go together so perfectly, the whole world raises its fork.

STEVEN RAICHLEN is a Miami-based food writer and a frequent contributor to FOOD & WINE. His most recent book is The Barbecue! Bible (Workman).

PUBLISHED October 1998