Once a butcher shop, a bar and who knows what other establishment, Bistrot Paul Bert is the perfect example of an archetype French bistro. Tiled and mirrored walls, funky mosaic tiled floors, cozy tables with red leather chairs, a gleaming wooden bar, a superb wine list and best of all, a meat lovers haven! If you have a love of rare beef, consider this pepper steak adorned with a Cognac cream sauce a small slice of heaven especially when accompanied by crisp tender les frites. I prefer my beef similar to Pittsburgh black and blue-seared well on the outside and rare on the inside, or as written on the menu chalkboard at Bistro Paul Bert- "Ici les viandes sont servies bleues-(we serve meat blue (just warm in the center)". When I cook steaks for my guests who don't appreciate meat cooked rare, I sear the beef for 3 or 4 minutes each side in a heated and oiled cast-iron pan then finish it off in a preheated 350°F oven to the desired doneness.
Beef fillets are expensive, so feel free to substitute a cheaper alternative such as a rib-eye or a t-bone, my favorite as the bone adds so much flavor the the beef. Success with the les frites is dependent upon the correct choice of potato. Russet potatoes, or Idaho russet, if grown in the state of Idaho have more starch and are therefore the best for frying. The cut potatoes should never sit in water, according to Bertrand Auboyneau, owner of Bistrot Paul Bert, and should be dried thoroughly before going through the two-step frying method. First, the cut potatoes are fried in oil at a low temperature, about 300-325°F so they are cooked through, but not browned. Drain them well and let them cool, then just before serving, fry them again in 375°F oil until browned and crisp. Serve in a bowl with paper, add salt and serve immediately.
For more Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak posts, check out the French Fridays with Dorie cooking group. This talented group is cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table available at most bookstores and online.
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