“One of the great diversions of life in France is an intimate evening at the local bistro, where mainstays of French food are reduced to their basic elements for quick, casual dining,” Mark Bitterman writes in “Salted” (Ten Speed Press, $35). “Côte de boeuf en croûte del sel is among the great bistro dishes: beef rib steak, cut remendously thick, perfectly cooked and served piping hot with a little herbed butter.”
The French aren’t so different in that respect from most of us Texans.
Rib Steak in Salt Crust (Côte de boeuf en croûte del sel)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 two-rib bone-in rib steak (about 3 pounds and 2 to 3 inches thick)
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 pounds sel gris, such as sel gris de l’Ile de Noirmoutier (see note)
2 to 5 tablespoons water (optional)
Leaves from 2 rosemary sprigs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh herbs, such as Italian parsley, rosemary and/or thyme
2 two-finger pinches fleur de sel
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Heat a heavy iron skillet over high heat for 10 minutes until very hot. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Pat the surface of the steak dry and season with the cracked pepper. Brown the steak on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Have ready a baking dish just large enough to hold the steak. Press the sel gris between your fingers. It should be moist enough to stick together. If it isn’t, stir in a few tablespoons of water until the salt is moist enough to cling together when firmly pressed.
Spread the sel gris 1/2 inch thick in the baking dish. Scatter half the rosemary leaves over the salt. place the steak on top and scatter the remaining rosemary leaves over the steak. Pack the salt around the steak until it is completely encased. Bake for 30 minutes for rare, or 40 minutes for medium-rare.
[amazon-product]1580082629[/amazon-product]While the steak is roasting, make the herb butter. Mash together the butter, garlic and herbs in a small bowl with a fork until well blended. Gently stir in the fleur de sel, trying to keep the salt crystals as intact as possible. Set aside.
Remove the beef from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Break the salt crust, brush off any excessive salt adhering to the steak, and remove to a cutting board. Cut into thick slices, arrange three or four slices on each plate, and serve with a general ball of herbed butter.
Note: If you can’t find sel gris, use kosher salt for the crust and add water as needed.
Makes 4 servings.
Adapted from “Salted” by Mark Bitterman