Jacques Haeringer began working part-time at L’Auberge Chez François in the summers about 60 years ago, well before the downtown DC restaurant moved to Great Falls in 1976.
His father, François Haeringer, opened his Alsatian restaurant in 1954. That means that the younger chef, who took over the restaurant nearly 30 years ago, has spent his whole life in the industry. “I don’t know how to do anything else!” he jokes.
Although the restaurant has long been the family’s bread and butter, Haeringer says they always take Christmas Day off. Their patriarch has passed, but the Haeringers have kept his menu of roast goose. As the family expanded, “not everyone was wild about goose,” so the menu now also includes the Châteaubriand recipe included here. It’s a favorite both at the restaurant and in Haeringer’s home kitchen. For the niece who prefers fish, there’s salmon from the chef, who says he’s happiest at the grill.
Another Haeringer holiday staple? French onion soup, a recipe that Haeringer also shared with our readers. They sup on oysters, too. “Raw with a squeeze of lemon—that’s it. You want to do as little to an oyster as possible,” Haeringer says.
The family finishes dinner with a bûche de Noël, better known in the States as a Yule log, preferably mocha-flavored.
Though the whole gang, including Haeringer’s two brothers and their children, gets together on Christmas, the chef says that his favorite holiday is New Year’s Day because it signals the end of his busiest season. But even when he’s working, he loves them all. “The holidays are so special,” he says. “Everything in life is celebrated with food, from birth to death. It’s what makes us human, I think.” // 332 Springvale Road, Great Falls
Châteaubriand with Béarnaise Sauce
Start to finish: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Two 18- to 20-ounce center cuts of beef tenderloin
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons tarragon wine vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped shallot
1/4 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1 teaspoon tarragon leaves, chopped, divided
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 cup clarified butter, warmed
1/2 teaspoon cold water, if needed
Lemon juice, to taste (about 2 teaspoons)
Salt, to taste
Sugar, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
MAKE THE BEEF: Trim any fat and silver skin from beef. Place beef, large end up, in center of a dish towel. Wrap towel tightly around beef. Gather the loose ends of towel and grasp firmly to securely hold beef upright.
Pound beef using the flat side of a meat cleaver to approximately half of its original height. Repeat with second tenderloin. The flatter and more cylindrical the shape, the easier it is to cook and slice the meat.
Season beef with salt and pepper. In a heavy skillet, heat butter and oil over high heat until butter turns brown. Add beef to skillet, and sear well on both sides. Reduce heat slightly, and cook beef, turning several times using tongs to ensure even cooking, 16 minutes for medium-rare.
Remove beef from pan; let rest 5 to 10 minutes before carving. Carve beef diagonally into 3/8-inch slices; arrange beef slices down center of a platter.
MAKE THE BEARNAISE SAUCE: In a small saucepan, combine white wine, red wine vinegar, tarragon wine vinegar, shallot, peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon tarragon leaves, and cook over medium heat until liquid mostly evaporates, being careful not to scorch the mixture. Set aside to cool.
In a copper or stainless steel bowl, whisk together egg yolks and hot water until smooth. Avoid aluminum as it discolors the yolks.
Fill a small saucepan with water, and heat over medium until hot but not boiling. Place bowl with egg yolks over hot water. (Alternatively, place bowl with egg yolks directly over very low heat.) Cook, beating yolks continuously and using whisk to scrape bottom and sides of bowl, until sauce forms a thick ribbon rather than individual streams when whisk is lifted from sauce, about 5 minutes. Remove bowl from heat. Slowly add in warm clarified butter, whisking constantly. If sauce begins to separate, add 1/2 teaspoon cold water.
Whisk in cooled white wine mixture. Season sauce with lemon juice, salt, sugar and cayenne pepper to taste.
Pour sauce through a fine sieve into a warm, not hot, nonmetallic bowl. Stir in parsley and remaining 1 teaspoon tarragon. Serve alongside beef.
Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée
Start to finish: 1 hour, 35 minutes
1 tablespoon butter
1½ cups thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon flour
1 quart beef or vegetable stock
11/8 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
3/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
Eight ½-inch slices French bread
2 tablespoons grated Gruyère cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan or a Dutch oven over low heat. Add onions, and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.
Stir in flour, and add stock, whisking vigorously. Increase heat to high, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, adding more to taste if needed. Preheat oven to 375°F.
Place bread slices on a baking sheet, and bake in preheated oven until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Set toasted bread slices aside. Increase oven temperature to broil.
Divide soup evenly among 4 ovenproof bowls. Top each bowl with two toasted bread slices. Stir together Gruyère and Parmesan; sprinkle each bowl with 1 heaping tablespoon cheese mixture. Place bowls in oven; broil until cheese is melted and browned, about 8 minutes. Serve immediately.