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French in a Flash: Herbes de Provence Grilled Steak

[Photograph: Kerry Saretsky]

Few things hang better in thick summer air than the smell of grilling steak. There's something about the meaty haze clouding up the already hazy air and hanging there, calling everyone to the grill like a clanging dinnertime gong. I imagine it must be something like an ex-smoker walking through a cloud of recently exhaled cigarette puffs; everything stops, and then even the most determined mind can only think of one thing. How can you not hang around a hot grill full of steaks like a starving dog with your tongue dangling from your mouth? You have to. It's carnal. Biological. Period.

This recipe starts with the fabled herbes de Provence, a combination of typically dried herbs that you find jumbled together in a supermarket glass bottle. In this recipe, I use the same jumble, but in their fresh versions: rosemary, thyme, savory, sage, lavender, marjoram, bay, chervil, fennel, or any combination thereof. I mix the little herb shards with garlic—that stalwart of French Proven├žal cooking—and olive oil, then rub the paste all over beef tenderloin steaks. When the meat hits that even-hotter-than-the-air grill, immediately the garlic and herbs flare up and fill your nose, the herbs form a kind of latticed crust around meat, and the smoke from the herbs permeates into the steak.

I use beef tenderloin tips for this recipe. The tip is less expensive than the fillet because it is thinner at one end than at the other. For that reason, it's usually cut up and tossed into Stroganoffs. But I like it for a summer grill because I can slice up the long piece of meat into medallions that range from medium-rare to medium-well, which lets you satisfy a wide range of tastes. This is one of my favorite all-time recipes: simple, hearty, and honest that tastes perfectly of ultra-tender meat and a salty, herby char. Maybe this one should also come with a Surgeon General's warning: highly addictive.

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way.

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