Ludo Lefebvre talks family history and steak frites in this episode of Ludo à la Maison. This classic meat-and-potatoes dish has a nostalgic component for the L.A. chef, “My maman (mom) was always doing french fries for me on Saturday” he says, speaking about his childhood. He once made steak frites on a date with his then-girlfriend—“And I guess it worked, you know. Now I’m married.”
Ludo begins with the fries. “It’s so quick,” he says of his recipe, encouraging everyone to try french fries at home. “Seriously, it’s going to take you like—I don’t exaggerate—20 minutes. That’s it.”
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If you do make them at home, don’t worry about being exact. Ludo says that, when his mom used a knife to make fries for him, “the potatoes were never really the same size. I like it.”
He says to soak potatoes in cold water—preferably overnight—to remove the excess starch, and then dry them thoroughly.
Wondering what kind of fat to use? “In the restaurant, I fry them in clarified butter,” says Ludo. “Trust me, it’s good.” However, this might not be the most sustainable method: “It costs a lot of money to fill the fryer with clarified butter. But it is so good, sometimes I don’t care about the price. It’s about quality.”
This time, he’s using grapeseed oil—“because grapeseed oil really never burns”—to blanch the potatoes at 250F until soft, but not browned. “It’s very important you keep your potato white,” he says of this first cooking stage.
After blanching, it’s on to the steak. For steak frites, Ludo likes to make a steak au poivre, which includes a creamy and spicy black pepper sauce. “Most of the time,” for steak au poivre, “we use a coulotte. It’s a good piece of filet mignon. Beef tenderloin.”
The first step is searing at a very high temperature, “for like four minutes each side.” Ludo says you want to achieve a crunchy, brown crust at this step—“A good steak for me, it’s really about the crust.”
Ludo removes the steaks and rests his meat—a crucial step, he notes—before adding rosemary and garlic to melting butter on a lower heat. He then puts the steaks back in the pan, spooning the herb-laced butter over the meat to soften the crust and continue to cook them. Finally, says Ludo, you must flambé with some cognac.
Once the steaks are done, Ludo deglazes the pan with beef stock and a little creme fraiche. He strains the deglazed pan sauce and bolsters the seasoning—“The secret ingredient is a brined green peppercorn,” a Lefebvre family tradition.
For the final step, Ludo turns his attention back to the frites. He gives them their second fry, this time at a higher temperature—375F—until they turn a deep golden brown. Once they’re done, he adds salt—“like, a lot of salt”—calling unsalted fries “the worst.” We’d have to agree.
Get Ludo's steak frites recipe here.
Ludo plates the dish simply: frites on one side, steak on the other, with peppercorn sauce drizzled over the top. How did it turn out? “Leave me alone,” says Ludo. “I’m eating. I don’t want to talk about that.”