Bavette of Beef with Gratin Dauphinoise and Red Wine and Shallot Sauce

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For me, this is the archetypal French bistro dish, yet it is seldom found in the UK and, if it is, it can often be disappointing. There’s no big secret, just buy good-quality beef and cook it briefly. It’s never going to be as tender as fillet, but the flavour is knock-out. What’s more, it’s cheap. However, you do need a damn good gratin dauphinoise to accompany it. Sautéed shredded spring or winter greens make a colourful addition too.

Ingredients

  • 100 g butter, plus an extra knob to finish the sauce
  • Splash of vegetable oil
  • 6 bavette (skirt) steaks, each about 200 g
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Sprig of thyme
  • 10 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 300 ml full-bodied red wine
  • Sautéed shredded spring or winter greens, to serve (optional)

For the Gratin Dauphinoise

  • 8 large waxy potatoes, such as Desiree
  • 750 ml double cream
  • 500 ml full-fat milk
  • 15 g salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon pureed or grated garlic, plus 1 peeled whole clove to rub the pot
  • 20 g butter

Method

First make the gratin dauphinoise: preheat the oven to 130°C/gas 1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into slices about 3 mm. thick. Quickly rinse them and pat them dry. In a large saucepan, heat the cream, milk, salt and pepper with the pureed or grated garlic, then toss in the sliced potatoes. Rub a suitable earthenware or cast-iron pot with the whole garlic clove. Turn the contents of the pan into the pot, dot the butter on the surface and bake in the preheated oven for 1½ hours, increasing the oven setting to 150°C/gas 2 for the last 10 minutes or so. This should glaze the surface; if it doesn’t, finish it off under a hot grill.

About 20 minutes before the gratin will be ready, prepare the steaks. Heat 60g butter and a splash of vegetable oil in a large frying pan. Season the steaks and sear in the butter and oil over a high heat until nicely browned on both sides. Tip half of this darkened oil and butter away. Then add the remaining butter with the garlic and thyme, and season again. Lower the heat a little and cook the steaks for about 4 minutes on each side, basting frequently.

When cooked, lift on to warmed serving plates and keep warm. Add the shallots to the pan with the red wine, increase the heat and reduce by two-thirds. Pour in the juice that has seeped from the cooked steaks, add a knob of butter, season to taste and pour over the meat. This is a very simple roasting juice.

Serve the steaks with the gratin and the greens if you are serving them.

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