I need to turn Steak Frites into finger-food
February 25, 2015 8:22 PM   Subscribe

My son's fourth grade class is doing a "Night of the Notables" project tomorrow night, in which he has to dress up and act like a famous historical person. He selected Jacques Cousteau, and we're mostly all ready to go with a red knit hat and blue work shirt. Students also have to bring in their notable's favorite foods, enough for at least 20 people to eat while walking around a sea of poster-boards and pint-sized edu-LARPers. It turns out that M. Cousteau's favorite food was steak frites.

So in the interest of historical accuracy, I need to find a way to cook something resembling the dish about an hour ahead of time, divide it into at least 20 portions, and somehow turn it into a freaking hors d'oeuvre that stays edible on a platter for an hour.

The best I can think of is some simple steak on a stick recipe and and buying several orders of large fries at McDonalds right be the event begins. But I already have the reputation of being the parent who brings store cookies or paper napkins to food-related projects, and I'm not sure I want my son to be known as the child of that McDonald's lady.

Can anyone help me out here with a recipe that at least looks like I tried. I don't want to make the culinary equivalent of Lisa Simpson's Florida costume.

I tried suggesting we substitute fish sticks and hope that nobody noticed, but my family informed me that I was not helping. Swedish fish and goldfish crackers were also scornfully nixed, so apparently I need to take this project a lot more seriously, which is hard to do when your 9-year old has morphed into a teeny Jacques Cousteau. None of the parenting books prepared me for stuff like this.
posted by bibliowench to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What about oven baking tater tots? They are a little sturdier than fries. You could pop it on a skewer with the steak. Not sure how you could keep it warm, but any hot food will go cold in an hour.

Or some fancy kettle chips? You could nestle some with a bite of steak in a cupcake liner.
posted by topophilia at 8:28 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Flank steak, sliced into the correct number of portions. It cooks quickly, and it's good cold/room temperature. Put it on a toothpick with cooked frozen french fries if that's what you can do. If you have more time and energy, quarter some yukon gold potatoes (1/4 the number of students), put a tiny bit of olive oil and a bit of salt on them, mix them all up with your hands, and put them in a preheated 425F oven for about 20-30 minutes, until they get brown at the edges. Then put those on a toothpick with the cut pieces of flank steak.
posted by jaguar at 8:29 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

Salt potatoes might work on a skewer with the steak.
posted by frumiousb at 8:30 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Steak on a platter for an hour? This chef and caterer officially tells you that this is an awful & disgusting idea, and possibly will yield food poisoning. For real.

Gimme a minute and I'll see if anything pops to mind...
posted by jbenben at 8:31 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm with jaguar. Oven roasted potatoes. I'd make, like, inch squared cubes and I would get yukon gold. I am not being a food snob, I think that they have the ideal mix of starchy and waxy that could stand getting jammed on a toothpick with a bite of beef. Flank is a good choice for room temp. Just slice thinly against the grain and you will get lots of portions out of one flank. The tater tot idea isn't bad, either.

Frankly, I would be the mom who pretends that she found an obscure source that said he quite enjoyed brownies and just make those. I am totally serious, that is totally what I would do because steak frites is gross unless you eat those fries hot out of the oil.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:35 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Cook your steak during the day, put it in the fridge, and serve it as it goes from chilled to room temp.
posted by jaguar at 8:37 PM on February 25, 2015

Chik-fil-A (god help me) makes pretty good Waffle Fries. I'd go with those or frozen Waffle Fries in the oven for the base.

For the steak I got nothing. Flank steak could work, I have no better suggestion.
posted by jbenben at 8:39 PM on February 25, 2015

There is some deli sandwich beef that I sometimes buy that is fully cooked but appears pink, steak-ish. Do they still make those potato chip relatives called shoestring potatoes that came in a fat version of a Pringles can? This combo would be good.
posted by littlewater at 8:41 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This must be the article you found. They also mention the restaurant served wonderful profiterole, which, if I remember correctly, are easy to find in frozen form as cream puffs. They sell them at Costco. It might be an easier do.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:47 PM on February 25, 2015 [13 favorites]

You don't happen to have a warming tray or similar, do you? My mom has one that I'm pretty sure belonged to my grandmother and I definitely used it in high school for a similar kind of food project. That would keep your flank steak and roasted potatoes skewers warm, although I'm not sure of the food safety implications...
posted by MadamM at 8:53 PM on February 25, 2015

Best answer: Well, the same source that gives his favorite restaurant as the one that serves the 'steak frites' also says: "Dessert features a full menu headlined by their famous and delicious profiteroles, as well as cheese plates, tarts, fresh fruit and more".

So that certainly opens up some other perfectly legitimate and easy possibilities--a cheese plate, or maybe cheese plate with some fruit, and/or some cream puffs (profiteroles) would be easy and kids would probably like them.
posted by flug at 8:54 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yes. Cold fries are abominable, and cold steak isn't much better. But roast beef is delicious cold. Roll it up and spear it with toothpicks. Serve with fancy potato chips in cupcake liners. If you want it fancier, throw a sprinkle of chopped parsley on top.
posted by zennie at 8:55 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Crock pot! On the "keep warm" setting. Use the flank steak, skewers, and whatever kind of potato you decide. You could roast baby potatoes whole, skewer them up with the flank steak, put them all in a crock pot and there you go! Would actually be fairly easy. Don't overcook the potatoes or they will not stay on the skewers.
posted by raisingsand at 9:00 PM on February 25, 2015

well I'm not a fourth grader but by golly I remember being one and I would have been MUCH happier with a mini cream puff ("profiterole") than with cold meat and potatoes on a stick. You know what to do!
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:02 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Foam Pants and Flug, you have just made my tomorrow a hell of a lot more manageable. And I probably won't give anyone food poisoning, so me and my son's class thank you.
posted by bibliowench at 9:04 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Steak flavoured potato chips are a thing.

Little tiny potato pancakes with slices of steak on them. Easy to pick up and could be very tasty maybe with a dash of horseradish.
posted by wwax at 9:07 PM on February 25, 2015

Promise me you will label the plate as SCUBA snacks.
posted by biffa at 10:26 PM on February 25, 2015 [14 favorites]

Not French, but there used to be gatherings called beefsteaks (originally men only) in NY and NJ, where the meat would be eaten with fingers. Joseph Mitchell described one in the New Yorker(pdf link).
posted by brujita at 11:09 PM on February 25, 2015

I'm probably too late for you, but steak frites (steak and french fries) would be really easy to symbolize by setting out a nice big platter containing these beef jerky nuggets with a big bowl of these crunchy potato stick snacks on the side. Maybe add a little dish of ketchup for dipping. Good kid-friendly finger food, it won't go bad, easy to pack in and set up, and you don't need to keep it hot. People who give you the side-eye can go fly a kite. (Would the kids rather eat cold soggy "gourmet" food, or crunchy salty goodies they recognize?)
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 8:35 AM on February 26, 2015

Just in case you're not already: please consider having your son do the food prep that isn't dangerous. These kinds of "assignments" don't really go away as kids get older, and it's maddeningly easy for kids to forget there's no mommy parental magic wand that completes them in two seconds flat.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:59 AM on February 26, 2015

I'm so glad I could help! This may be wildly off-topic but I like talking about me, ANYHOO, the only food assignment I ever had as a kid was in the 4th grade, we had to do a report on a country and bring a food. One girl brought Swiss cheese which everybody hated but me. I had never had it before being a culturally deprived person from rural Iowa and I loved it. She gave it to me to take home. After getting off the bus, my neighbor kid and I decided to get a little ice skating in, so, we dropped our bags and popped over the hill. Came back and my dog, who, just a week before, had pissed on my flute case while I was waiting for the bus, had managed to pry my bag open and eat all the cheese and the paper it was wrapped in. School project gone bad. I hope your kid appreciates all the hard work and things go a bit better for you.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:24 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update:
The profiteroles were a hit. Effort-wise, they fell somewhere in between Nikola Tesla's Traditional Croatian Jam Biscuits and Mary Lou Retton's box of Wheaties. More importantly, the teacher liked them, and I maintained my sanity. Thanks again!
posted by bibliowench at 7:17 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

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