Saturday, September 6, 2014

Grilled Steak with Sauce Vierge

Back in the 1980s, there was this chef.  Actually, there were a lot of chefs back in the 1980s, but there was this one chef.  He was born in southwestern France, but, he lived and cooked in Paris.  He also wrote cookbooks.  As the 1980s unfolded, this chef popularized a sauce.  That was quite a feat for a country whose cuisine is known for its sauces.  However, those sauces were stock based sauces.  This particular sauce is a fresh sauce, with fresh ingredients, like olive oil oil, lemon juice, tomatoes and basil.  It was to be used in shellfish dishes and pasta dishes, the type that would be particularly welcoming to a fresh sauce.

That chef was Michel Guérard and the sauce that he made popular goes by the name of Sauce Vierge or, literally translated, "Virgin Sauce."  (Don't ask me why it is called by that name, that question is best left for Chef Guérard.)  I had come across a recipe for sauce vierge and placed it on my short list of recipes to make.  The recipe sat on that list for a long time.  A very long time. 

At long last, I made the recipe for sauce vierge.  As I did my research, I realized that the sauce I was making bore little resemblance to Chef Guérard's recipes.  Sure, the olive oil is still there.  But the basil, lemon juice and tomato are long gone. 

The reason is that the term -- sauce vierge -- has come to represent a variety of Mediterranean sauces, many of which go by other names.  Names like "green sauce," "sauce aux herbes" and "sauce verte."  These sauces are generally a combination of olive oil, various herbs, mustard, capers, olives and other aromatics.

The particular recipe that I found and used had two things that appealed to me. First, the recipe included an additional ingredient for the sauce... a jalapeño pepper.  The pepper provided the sauce with a good, but overpowering, kick.  Second, it called for using this sauce on a grilled steak.  Although the recipe called for the use of a sirloin steak, which is a decent cut for use with sauces.  (Flank steaks or flat iron steaks are definitely better for sauces.)  I decided that I would use my favorite cut, a bone-in ribeye.  

The recipe definitely worked very well.  In fact, it worked so well, that I will definitely try it on seafood or pasta dishes.  However, depending upon the fish or pasta, I might leave out the pepper.  The kick works well with beef or other meat, but it may be a little to much for fish.

Recipe from Saveur
Serves 4

1/4 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon of capers
12 large green olives pitted and roughly chopped
6 oil-packed anchovy filets, drained and finely chopped
4 cornichons, roughly chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, stemmed and finely chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
Kosher salt and 
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 thick top sirloin or ribeye steaks (about 2 lbs.)
1.  Prepare the Sauce Vierge. On a cutting board, pile together the parsley, capers, olives, anchovies, cornichons, shallots, garlic, and jalapeño. With a large knife, finely chop and scrape the ingredients to combine.  Transfer the parsley mixture to a large bowl and stir in 6 tbsp. of the olive oil and the mustard with a fork to make a thick and chunky sauce. You can drizzle in more olive oil for a thinner consistency, but I think the sauce is better if it is thick and chunky. Season with salt and pepper. Set the sauce aside at room temperature to let rest for 30 minutes, to allow the flavors to mingle.

2.  Grill the Steaks. Build a hot charcoal fire in a grill or heat a gas grill to high heat. Rub steaks with the remaining olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill steaks, turning once, until lightly browned and medium rare, about 2–3 minutes per side. Transfer steaks to a platter and let rest for 3 minutes. Stir the sauce, because it will begin to separate slightly as it sits and spoon it over the steaks. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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