Excerpted from Mallmann on Fire by Francis Mallmann (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Santiago Soto Monllor.
I first learned the technique of pan-roasting rib eye when I apprenticed in France. Before that, I had always cooked steak on a grill over an open fire. But you can get a gorgeous crunchy crust with a luscious pink interior using a cast-iron skillet or a chapa [plancha]. When I dreamed up this recipe on the shores of Red Hook, we were in sight of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the French people to the United States, so I felt duty bound to include a French touch—and decided to toast some brioche on the chapa. Toast wants something sweet on it, so onto the chapa as well went some dates and, for contrast and piquancy, some arugula.
Step 1: Heat a plancha, chapa, or a cast-iron griddle over medium heat. Pat the steak dry with paper towels. Brush the plancha generously with olive oil. When the oil shimmers, sprinkle one side of the steak with fleur de sel and set it salt side down on the hot surface. After about 10 minutes, when the steak is browned and crusty on the bottom, season the top with salt and flip it over to cook on the other side for about 8 more minutes, or until nicely browned. Stand the steak upright on its side to brown the fat for several minutes, then lay it back down and cook on each side for a minute or two, until the internal temperature reaches 120°F for rare. Transfer it to a carving board and let it rest for 10 minutes while you make the brioche salad. (The temperature will increase slightly as it rests.)
Step 2: Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan drippings. Arrange the pieces of brioche on the hot surface to toast: this can take less than a minute, depending on the heat of the plancha, so keep your eye on them and turn them before they burn. As the bread is toasting, dot it all over with the mustard, and season with salt, black pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Drizzle olive oil generously over it, then fit the dates in, cut side down. Scatter the arugula over the top and, using two spatulas, toss it all together as you would a salad, scraping up the drippings, oil, and mustard to combine. Sprinkle the salad generously with olive oil and heap it on a serving platter.
Step 3: Slice the meat, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with the salad, spooning the juices over all.