Boeuf à la ficelle is a classic Parisian dish, probably emanating from the area around Les Halles. Prime cuts of beef are dangled by a piece of string into a boiling stock for a very short time. The meat is always served extremely rare and, though undeniably tasty, can be
I am not aware of any French restaurants that ever served it in Soho, but since reading about this strange method of cooking in
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the beef trimmings. Cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browning. Add the onion, celery and vegetable trimmings, stir and continue cooking until everything in the pan has turned an appetising brown. Add the soy, bay leaf and consommé, then boil vigorously for 5 minutes. Add
Put all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor and chop coarsely. Add the oil in a steady stream with the machine still running. Add salt and pepper to taste, remembering that this is a relish and needs to be well seasoned.
Season the steaks generously. Bring the broth to a boil, add the carrots and continue boiling for 5 minutes. While this is happening, heat a frying pan with the sunflower oil and brown the steaks for 1 minute on each face, ignoring the sides. When the carrots have had their 5 minutes’ head start, add the beans and boil for 3 minutes. Now add the browned beef and turn the heat down to achieve the barest simmer (the French refer to this by the very descriptive term frémir, to shiver). Cook for 5 minutes then add the spring onions and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
Take the pan from the heat and remove the vegetables. Arrange these in piles in the centre of four soup plates, or deep dinner plates. Remove the steaks from their broth and place on top of the vegetables. The steaks will be done medium rare; if you want them well done, allow another 5 minutes. In this case you may need to take the vegetables out before the meat is done. Serve the green sauce separately.
It is perfectly possible to cook larger pieces of beef in this way, the only problem is judging the cooking time. The four steaks in the recipe above, if cooked as one piece of central fillet, would probably need an extra bit of browning and a further 10 minutes in the broth.
The Dijon mustard, coarse salt and potatoes mentioned above go very well with the Italianised version as well. If you can get hold of small tender leeks, substitute them for the spring onions, and add to the cooking pot at the same time as the beans.
© 1999 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.