French Provinces 1 – English provinces 0

After returning from our largely disappointing jaunt to the provinces I wanted to cook something new, simple, yet tasty for dinner. A recipe in Richard Corrigan’s excellent The Clatter of Forks and Spoons (itself based on a recipe in Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking) seemed to fit the bill.

Rump Steak with Sauce Nivernaise

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1 kg rump steak from the Ginger Pig

Sauce Nivernaise

225g butter
1 tbsp. white wine
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 egg yolks
100g cooked and chopped snails (about two dozen)
1 tsp. chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and Cayenne pepper
lemon juice to taste

First, make a hollandaise base. To do this, clarify the butter in a small sauce pan, and separate the golden butter from the milky solids and foam.

Pour the wine and the vinegar into a non-reactive pan, and reduce until there is about one tablespoon of liquid left.

Pour the vinegar wine reduction into a bowl, and stir in the egg yolks. Slowly whisk in the clarified butter (a hand held mixer works very well, especially with the balloon whisk attachment), until all the butter is absorbed and the sauce thickens.

Then stir in the finely chopped snails, the chopped parsley and the crushed garlic. Season to taste with some salt and cayenne pepper. Add some lemon juice if you want a little more acidity.

We like our meat very rare, so I cooked the steaks in a cast-iron grill pan for two minutes a side, then wrapped them in foil to rest for five minutes before serving.

Mr Corrigan suggests serving this with a watercress salad and chips. Given the quantity of meat purchased we were happy with just the meat and sauce on this occasion.

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The verdict

The sauce was a revelation. The combination of the buttery texture and flavour with the earthy grassiness of the snails and the not inconsiderable garlic finish was very successful.

We think the sauce would work even better with sirloin steak (especially on the bone), or with a trimmed rack of lamb.

Our version last night was further improved as we couldn’t find a small tin of snails, so we used the drained snails from a jar of Godard’s Cassolette d’Escargots au Beurre Truffé. They imparted a subtle but highly pleasurable character to the sauce. The next time we make this sauce, we’ll definitely use fresh snails and shaved black truffle.