Monday, 24 June 2019

Feather Steak

This is a reworking of a post I wrote ten years ago and has always been one of the most popular posts on the blog.

Feather steak goes by a number of names -- paleron in France, flat iron steak in America. It's also called top blade and patio steak. The name 'feather' comes because there is a large nerve running through the meat, with many smaller nerves branching off in a feathery pattern.

Cut thin and flash fried, feather steak makes a very tasty and economical meal. It is a cut of beef you can nearly always get in France, but not seen so much in anglophone countries.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

It is from the less well regarded front end of the beast, and if cut thicker and used as a stewing steak, it is known as blade (as in shoulder blade, which is more or less where it comes from on the animal).

Depending on how it is cut, it will currently range in price from €7/kilo (for blade) to €10 (for feather) at one of the large supermarket chains. What's more, the label will inform you that the beast the meat came from was born and raised in France, killed and butchered in France (with a reference number so you can check exactly where and by whom). Perhaps most interesting of all, the label will say that this meat came from a cow (vache), as opposed to a steer, and she was not a beef breed, but a dairy cow (laitier).

It may seem odd to clearly label meat as not from a breed specifically developed for meat production, but take a look at the type of hefty heifer that these steaks probably came from, and you will understand that we are not talking about the sort of gaunt mobile bags of milk that modern intensive dairy farming demands. Strictly speaking, these Normandes are a dual purpose breed.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The big nerve down the middle of feather steak is most off-putting looking and often mistaken for gristle, but if the meat is cooked extremely quickly and not allowed to cool before being eaten, the nerve does not toughen but is more like firm jelly. You do need to check that all the gristle around the edges is trimmed off though, as that is like leather.

Pat the steak dry, smear with oil, season generously with a pepper blend (I use Ducros 5 Baies) and a little sea salt then sizzle for no more than a minute a side on a dry cast iron pan that has been heated until it is smoking. Pull off the heat and stir a little crème fraîche into the pan juices. Serve immediately with fried potatoes of some sort.

According to a commenter on the original post:
The cut: It sits on the side of the shoulder blade and when sliced looks like a feather with the nerve like the quill. Cut like this it is good for casseroles. However, if the nerve is removed it gives two flat muscles that are very lean with a good flavour and firm texture. These are also good for daubes and casseroles but also for flash frying. Excellent value for money.


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Ken Broadhurst said...

I think it's a mistake to call that connective tissue in the middle of the steak a nerve. In French it's called un nerf, but in English? It's more likely a tendon or ligament. One of the definitions of nerf in the CNRTL dictionary is: Filament blanchâtre, tendon, aponévrose qui se rencontre dans une viande. In English Wikipedia, the white tissue you're describing is called "a gristly fascia membrane" and describes it as "a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen..."

Susan said...

Could be...

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