My wife and I came across this lovely cut of beef while holidaying in Paris many years ago. It’s generally considered to be the most tender part of meat of a bovine, or more precisely, the steer. It is sometimes called ‘skirt’ (not to be confused with the American ‘skirt steak’), or also hanger steak in the UK, the latter because it ‘hangs’ from the diaphragm. More often than not these days, the French word for it is being used, and it is getting more and more common to see it at proper meat desks at Waitrose or Wholefoods or at butchers like The Ginger Pig. Similar to flank steak in flavour and texture, it was nicknamed ‘butcher’s steak’ because this (at least initially) cheapest part of the meat was either processed to sausage or the butcher kept it for himself, as it was considered low quality.
In France it has been terribly popular for decades, and ever more so, and – because of the high demand – it now commands similar prices to entrecote, regularly north of €22 per kilo in Paris. In London the prices typically vary from £12 to £16 (it used to be £7 or £8 when we discovered it for ourselves).
The secret with onglet is: it must be served rare, not medium rare (or, God forbid, medium or well done). I usually do mine between 1 minute and 1.75 minutes on each side at medium to medium-high temperature, depending on the size and shape, nearly always less than 3 minutes in total. Anything over 3.5 minutes is bound to make your meal as chewy as a rubber shoe sole. Avoid at any cost! (In the highly unlikely event that you end up finding your onglet too rare, you can always put it into the pan for another 15 to 20 seconds or so on each side.)
I pre-heat the oven to 70 degrees. Then I pan-fry the steak, making sure that every last drop of blood (usually there should be a lot of blood, but I’ve had excellent onglets that didn’t come with much blood, too) ends up in the pan. Once this exercise is finished, I take the steaks out of the pan and let the blood and juice drip off into the pan while doing so. Then I put them onto a plate and into the oven they go.
I melt a very generous cube or two of butter, then throw in a few bits of bacon and up to one finely chopped onion, add some pepper (no salt, unless the stock you’ll add later is unsalted), then let the ingredients fry for about ten minutes at moderate temperature, while regularly stirring. I then add chicken broth (it works with beef broth too, but I prefer chicken broth, I usually use Knorr cubes, ideally unsalted ones, if I can find them) and about one whole glass of decent quality red wine (nothing expensive, but don’t go for sweet Lambrusco or vinegary corner store anti-frost agent) and let the mixture boil down for about another ten minutes. Then I use a colander to filter the sauce into a large glass. I then gradually add some flour while stirring very fast with a spoon, until the sauce has thickened and no white bits are left floating around, at which stage I take out the onglet from the oven and add the sauce onto the plate. Now don’t engage in lengthy conversations or take Instagram photos, no matter how nice it looks, this meal is best eaten while its hot. Tuck in and enjoy.