LEAVE IT TO the French. They know deliciousness, but the path they take to get there is often arduous, littered with sticks of butter and awash in thick, creamy sauces. Bless them.
The French Open offers some of the finest examples of the country's cuisine in well-appointed dining rooms above the action at Roland Garros, where some Parisians come for lunch without watching the play. Even the thriftiest diner is treated to fine food. What in America would be grilled steak, in Paris becomes entrecôte, a grilled or sauteed rib eye with a buttery finish and a side of frites.
They're sold by the dozens at the Open, and they rarely disappoint. Restaurateur Ludo Lefebvre, a Burgundy native, shares the recipe for his version, which includes an onion-soup sauce. Make it and serve it, like Rafael Nadal at the French Open.
1 SWEAT THE ONIONS
Put the onions and one cup of butter in a large pot. Stir to coat the onions, cover and cook on low. After five minutes, stir, replace the lid and cook for five more, until the onions are translucent but not brown.
2 MAKE THE SAUCE
Turn up the heat to medium, and caramelize the onions. Add bay leaves and thyme, and cook until aromatic. Pour the sherry vinegar into the pot and stir, making sure to scrape the brown bits off the bottom. Add veal stock and reduce until the liquid clings to the back of a spoon.
3 GRILL THE MEAT
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over a high flame. Season the steaks with kosher salt. Reduce the heat to medium, add the oil and swirl to coat the surface. Add the steaks, one at a time, and cook until they are richly browned and have a crust, about three minutes. Turn the steaks and cook the other side until it is golden brown and also has a crust. The internal temperature should be around 120°F. Transfer to a carving board and let rest.
4 PUT IT TOGETHER
Pour off the fat in the skillet and heat on medium. Return the steaks to the skillet, add the second cup of unsalted butter and cook, basting the steaks, until the butter is golden brown, about one minute.
5 PLATE IT
Transfer the steaks to plates, and spoon the onion sauce over the top. Serve with French fries, and pass the remaining sauce.
Ludo Lefebvre, who has competed on Iron Chef America, Top Chef Masters and judged Hell's Kitchen and The Taste, owns Trois Mec and Petit Trois in L.A.
STEAK ENTRECÔTE WITH ONION-SOUP SAUCE
6 10-ounce entrecôte (rib eye) steaks
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
5 quarts veal stock
4 quarts onions, julienned
2 cups unsalted butter
½ cup sherry vinegar
16 sprigs thyme
4 bay leaves