Sauce Vierge: A no cook sauce livens up steak, fish, chicken, chops…

by Terry B on October 12, 2011

Sauce vierge, an uncooked French sauce, combines tomato, basil, garlic, shallots, capers and Dijon mustard to liven up steaks, fish, chops and more. Here, it’s served over pan grilled strip steak. Recipes below.

Honestly, if you ask me what I like to put on my steaks, my usual answer is salt, pepper, a knife, a fork and my teeth. I’ve never been a bottled steak sauce kind of guy. And the first time I ordered steak at Tango Sur, an Argentine restaurant in Chicago, I ignored the side of chimichurri sauce for the first several bites. (It was delicious, of course, when I finally sampled it.) I have since made my own version of the big flavored, garlicky, slightly spicy chimichurri sauce many times.

Sauce vierge is a French uncooked sauce; the literal translation from the French is virgin sauce. There are countless versions of this sauce, but most (not all, though) include fresh tomato; they also call for some kind of green herbs, garlic, olive oil—and lemon juice, more often than not.

This sauce vierge is similar to chimichurri in its intensity. With garlic, shallot, capers and Dijon mustard all working together, it’s not exactly a first date dish. I’ve served it here with pan grilled steaks seasoned only with salt and pepper, but sauce vierge is often served over fish. It would also be delicious with pork chops or chicken. Marion suggested that it would also work well as dressing for a warm potato salad.

One recipe called for roughly chopping the ingredients and piling them on a cutting board (minus the oil and the mustard), then finely chopping and scraping them together to help everything blend. This sounded like a cool process. It wasn’t. After just a couple of minutes, I scraped everything into the food processor and pulsed it a number of times. Much better.

Grilled Steaks with Sauce Vierge
Serves 4

For the Sauce Vierge:
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 plum tomato (or other medium tomato), seeded and diced
1/2 scallion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (see Kitchen Notes)
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus extra, if needed)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the steaks:
4 New York strip steaks, about 8 ounces each
canola oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Prepare the sauce vierge. Heat a small dry skillet or sauce pan over medium flame. Toast the coriander seeds until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer seeds to a bowl to cool completely. When they have cooled, grind them with a mortar and pestle, enjoying the nice lemon/sage smell as you do.

While the coriander seeds are cooling, prepare the tomato, scallion, garlic, capers, jalapeño pepper and basil. Combine them in the bowl of a food processor, along with the crushed coriander seeds, and pulse just until everything is finely chopped. You’ll  probably need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Don’t over process—you want the sauce fairly chunky. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in the oil and mustard. Taste and season with salt and pepper. If the sauce seems impossibly thick, drizzle in a little more oil. But don’t add too much—you want your sauce vierge almost like a salsa, not runny.

Set aside for at least 1/2 hour for the flavors to combine. I took my steaks out of the fridge at this point and gave them the 1/2 hour to come to room temperature.

Cook the steaks. First, let me say use any method you choose. Grilling would be perfect, adding its smokiness to the lively sauce. Pan searing with oil and a little butter would also be good. I used a grill pan.

While the pan heats over a medium-high flame, brush the steaks with canola oil, then season them generously with salt and pepper. Brush the grill pan with canola oil, then add the steaks. Cook on one side for about 4 minutes, then turn them. Let them cook on the second side for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness. Transfer to a platter and tent with foil to let them rest for about 5 minutes.

Transfer to individual plates and spoon some sauce vierge on each steak. Alternatively, you can place a ramekin of sauce vierge on each plate and let diners dip bites as they choose. If you spoon sauce over the steaks, use a light hand—it’s intense in flavor (in a delicious way, but intense nonetheless). You can pass the remaining sauce vierge at the table.

Kitchen Notes

How spicy? For most of this year, the jalapeño peppers I’ve been getting have been pretty tame. So when I chopped up the half pepper for this dish, I included the seeds and the white ribs. When I tasted the mixture before adding oil, it was really pretty fiery. Adding the oil calmed it down quite a bit. It still had a nice kick, but not too much heat. Know your peppers and your heat tolerance; then either use the seeds or discard them.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Valentina October 12, 2011 at 6:43 am

I’m loving this sauce, and can’t wait to try it! I’ve been using a lot of jalapeños lately, and yes, “know your peppers!” Well said!

altadenahiker October 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm

The sauce may be good, but I found your writing particularly juicy, funny, and, well, just elegant.

Terry B October 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Thanks, Valentina! For whatever reason, the jalapeños I’ve been getting this year have varied wildly in heat.

That is high praise coming from you, Altadenahiker. Thank you.

sara October 13, 2011 at 6:51 am

Oooh, that sauce sounds fantastic! I love that you say it’s not a ‘first date’ dish – that is definitely my favorite kind of sauce! :)

Laurel October 14, 2011 at 9:52 am

I don’t like steak sauce from out of a jar either, but this looks amazing and sounds easy to make.

Giovanni Gutierrez October 17, 2011 at 10:23 pm

That does look delicious! and I love that it is a no-cook sauce anyone can make!

Foodnap October 18, 2011 at 5:11 am

I’m sure this tastes as amazing as it looks, yummmmmmm

Angela Mears October 18, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Wonderful writing, wonderful sauce. Definitely a dinner-for-one sauce. Fine by me.

Terry B October 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Thanks, Sara! Yeah, some of the more interesting things to eat are not things you want on your breath for that potential first kiss at the end of the evening.

Laurel and Giovanni—Lots of really good things to eat are easy to make too. I think too many people are just intimidated by the idea of cooking. But starting with some simple recipes might get them past that.

Thanks, Foodnap!

Angela, I’m so glad you left a comment. Now I’ve discovered your beautiful and beautifully written blog! I will be back for more.

angela@spinachtiger October 19, 2011 at 12:21 am

I’m like you, salt pepper fork knife, but this sauce is intriguing and I always love a little heat.

Carrie June 29, 2013 at 11:24 am

Thank you for this recipe – my search is over! My son has fructose malabsorption (one of many things I blog about) and can have raw tomatos but no tomato sauces or cooked tomatos. He loves A-1 steak sauce so much I’ve been searching for a steak sauce recipe I could make safely for him, to no avail. But this looks delicious and I am certain he will love it! Thank you for giving my son a new “dip” for his steak!

Terry B June 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I hope he likes it, Carrie!

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