A Cote de Boeuf recipe – or more correctly, Côte de Bœuf recipe – from superstar French Chef Pierre Gagnaire became one of our most memorable souvenirs of our stay in Paris but when we posted it to our site we could never have known it would become one of our most read stories.
This cote de boeuf recipe was almost a couscous recipe too! Back in the spring of 2010 in Paris, about a quarter of the way through our 12 month global grand tour, we asked the legendary French chef Pierre Gagnaire his opinion as to what the quintessentially Parisian dish was that I should learn to cook in Paris for our series The Dish.
We could never have expected that, firstly, the chef would say ‘couscous’, and secondly, when we urged Pierre to choose something more traditionally French (as we’d just come from Morocco), that his Côte de Bœuf or cote de boeuf recipe would become one of our most-read posts.
A Cote de Boeuf Recipe Courtesy of Chef Pierre Gagnaire
“Think of a dish that you would tell someone they had to have if they came to Paris,” I prompted. After what seemed like an eternity, Chef Gagnaire, who had his head bowed, elbow on knee and chin in hand, raised his head, eyes sparkling, and pronounced: “Couscous!”
“Couscous?!” Lara and I both exclaimed. While it wasn’t the suggestion we were hoping for, the chef had a point.
Old-school Paris may be struggling with issues of cultural and national identity, and some Parisians were indeed struggling with the city’s increasing cosmopolitanism, as Lara had discovered on a walk with an academic that explored the Paris’ multiculturalism.
However, Parisians had firmly embraced the food of the Maghreb and couscous was a common dish found in many bistros, cafés, and take-away food joints across the city.
Having just travelled from Marrakech and Essaouira, where I made lamb tajine, we couldn’t possibly settle on couscous, regardless of how multicultural Paris is these days. Once I explained this, without hesitation Pierre declared “Côte de bœuf!” Perfect. I had secretly hoped he’d say this.
The previous year we had the privilege of being flies on the wall for a night in Pierre Gagnaire’s Dubai kitchen when he made one of his regular visits to his restaurant Reflets. That night, as Pierre’s head chef Olivier Biles fired orders of côte de bœuf so colossal, so fragrant, and so delicious, I had trouble focussing on anything else going on.
Olivier would send out the cote de boeuf in a cast iron pot to show the customers the meat they would be getting before it hit the oven to complete the cooking. The huge chunks of beef had been seared and were surrounded by thyme sprigs burning like incense. The aroma of the dish was amazing.
So, after a long and very enjoyable lunch at Pierre’s Paris restaurant, we strolled across to the chef’s office so we could get his opinion on what to make in the hope that he would share his cote de boeuf recipe and some tips on how to cook this great hunk of burning beef.
Five minutes a side on the grill, ten minutes in the oven, and ten minutes rest, he said. Simple as that.
I asked Pierre about the thyme that I had noticed being used in Dubai and he smiled, as he knew how tantalising the perfume of those little twigs made the dish. He said that the thyme could go either in the pan or in the oven with the meat. He also said he liked to use a little butter, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a touch of vinegar at the end.
The chef’s cote de boeuf recipe and cooking tips were the first of many welcome pieces of advice I’d receive over the next days. Every time I mentioned it, there were words of wisdom and some very strong opinions on how to make this quintessentially French dish. There was “serve it with pommes frites”, “cook it bleu (rare)”, but the most common response was just “Ooohh, côte de bœuf! Oh la la!”
Pierre said he preferred to eat his with pomme noisettes (potatoes carved into a hazelnut-shape) pepper, sauce béarnaise, and a fresh salad, or perhaps with potato Dauphinoise (layered slices of potato baked in milk and/or cream and a little cheese).
What was most critical, the chef said, was that we used meat from a good butcher as Parisians liked to eat it rare and the quality was important. His favourite butcher is Hugo Desnoyer – the go-to guy in Paris for quality cuts of meat. The cut used for côte de bœuf is actually a bone-in ribeye steak, but cut very thick through the ribs.
In the end, in keeping with the theme of our trip, I settled for a local butcher who had been recommended to me, some 200 metres from the apartment. The butcher first asked me how many people the beef was for and suggested a ‘double cut’, which is normal for a côte de bœuf for two – generally you can only order it for two. This was around 1.2kgs of meat and bone.
The butcher then asked whether it was for the barbecue or the pan. As it was for the pan, he trimmed the bone off and expertly trimmed some of the excess fat that runs through the cut and tied the meat up with string, placing the fat back on the outside of the cut. Beautiful.
But before we left, the butcher issued a stern warning: “Deux minutes!”, he said, while indicating with his hands in true French mime style that I should cook each side for two minutes before placing it in the oven. “Dix minutes,” he continued, miming the resting of the beef by placing his hands flat. He was insistent, and that’s what I love about the passion of someone who loves their ingredients.
Before we get back to the cote de boeuf recipe, it must be noted I made a couple of adjustments to the side dishes. Instead of pomme noisettes or potato Dauphinoise on the side, I went with a rustic mash fortified with mustard and a drizzle of red wine sauce (I’d had a similar side dish at Le Comptoir and loved it), and for a vegetable side I couldn’t resist using some of the fresh spring asparagus that was just hitting the markets. I made a sauce béarnaise for dipping both the beef and the asparagus into.
The bone-in ribeye steak is a delicious cut of meat but it is also an expensive cut, so if you’re unsure about oven temperatures or how to judge the doneness of the meat, use a meat thermometer. You don’t want to get this wrong!
- 1kg (2.2 pounds) trimmed côte de bœuf (bone-in ribeye) at room temperature
- 2 small bunches of thyme, tied with kitchen string
- 100g (3.5oz) salted butter
- Splash of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Make sure that your meat is at room temperature.
- Heat an oven-proof sauté pan to high on the stove and set the temperature of the oven to 200˚C (395˚F).
- Do not season the meat unless you want to steam it (and trust me, you don’t).
- Add the butter and a dash of olive oil to the pan.
- Pat dry the meat before placing it carefully in the hot pan. Add a bunch of thyme to the pan.
- You want a good dark crusty exterior for the meat, so don’t move or turn it until you get it; this should take around 3 minutes per side, or 5 if you have a crappy electric stovetop.
- Once both sides are cooked, I like to set the other bunch of thyme on fire, get it really smoking, add it to the pan, and partially cover the pan. This should take a couple of minutes to get a decent aroma through the meat.
- Place the meat in the oven; it should be around 10 minutes to get to rare to medium-rare.
- Remove the meat from the oven and rest covered in a warm place.
- Traditionally, côte de bœuf is sliced at the table, seasoned and served.
- The next day if you haven’t finished the beef, you’re going to have the best beef and mustard sandwiches of your life!