An economical way to enjoy premium aged beef
Bavette—also known as flank—is not quite the secret it once was, but it remains an economic way to enjoy premium aged beef (and something to enjoy with a warming glass of red wine on a cold day). It’s best cooked in plenty of foaming butter to medium-rare and with a thick brown crust, served with a punchy condiment such as this mushroom ketchup. If the butcher has run out of bavette, ask for onglet, skirt or flat iron steak instead.
The ketchup will keep well in the fridge for up to five days—time enough to enjoy it with lamb chops, sausages or maybe another piece of beef, if you have some left over. Alternatively, stir it through a ragu or casserole for an extra layer of umami.
For the mushroom ketchup:
300g portobello mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 banana shallot, finely sliced
1 small garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
⅕ nutmeg, finely grated
4 tsp white wine vinegar
For the steak:
2 tsp cooking oil
To make the ketchup, put the butter in a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat. Once melted and frothing, add the mushrooms and cook them fiercely for 4-5 mins until golden, much reduced in volume and the mushroom juices are leaching out. Add the shallot and a heavy pinch of flaky sea salt and reduce the temperature a little. Cook for 2-3 mins, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic, sugar, lots of ground pepper and the grated nutmeg, and cook for a final 2 mins, by which time the mushrooms should be dark and glossy. Add the vinegar, stir and remove from the heat.
Put the contents of the pan in a blender (or a food processor) with 2 tbsp tepid water and blitz until it forms a very smooth, silky purée that holds its form if spooned onto a plate. Add more water if necessary—conversely, don’t panic if it’s too loose, just heat it gently to evaporate the liquid until it’s as thick as desired. Refrigerate until required.
Find a heavy-based frying pan which fits the steak snugly. Turn on the extractor fan. Put the pan over a high heat, add the oil and heat until near smoking point. Season both sides of the bavette heavily with flaky sea salt and black pepper, then place it in the pan. Cook for 2 mins without disturbance, then flip it over and cook for 2 mins more. Add the butter and once it’s frothing and browning, spoon it repeatedly over the meat as it cooks. Cook both sides for a further 1-3 mins (the precise time will depend on the thickness of the steak and starting temperature of the meat). The bavette should plump up and its grain become obvious (most likely running lengthways).
When it’s ready it should have a similar spring to the squidgy part below your thumb, when you touch the thumb to middle finger. Alternatively, it’s ready when the core reaches 50-52C on a probe thermometer. Transfer to a warm plate to rest for 5 mins, then slice it across the grain, seasoning each piece with more salt.
Recipe: Ed Smith from The Borough Market Cookbook (Hodder & Stoughton, £25)
Image: Issy Croker