Steak Au Poivre

February 7, 2009

Kissing don’t last; cookery do!
~George Meredith

V-Day approaches…that holiday which may surpass New Year’s Eve as the year’s ultimate amateur hour. On this junk card laden day, too many couples who have rarely expressed their passion for one another for the preceding 364, decide to profess their true affection. Isn’t it better just to say “these three words” each mundane weekday?

A classic choice for this event is this bistro style, pepper crusted steak which takes little kitchen time — a quickie of sorts.

A word to the wise: ask your local butcher to freshly cut your steaks to your liking, specs that day at the store, and avoid settling for the precut meat in the glass case. Remember, cutting meat is his/her chosen avocation.


2 steaks, thick, freshly cut strip or ribeye
4 T coarsely cracked fresh peppers (primarily black, but also white, green, Szechuan)
Coarse sea salt

2 T olive oil
2 T unsalted butter
4 gently smashed, but intact, garlic cloves

1/2 C cognac or brandy
1/2 C veal or chicken stock
3 T Dijon mustard
1/2 C crème fraîche or heavy whipping cream

Season steaks with sea salt, then generously pepper both sides of with freshly cracked peppers. Press, massage the peppers into the meat, encrusting them fairly heavily. Let stand at room temperature for at least one hour.

Add smashed garlic, olive oil and butter to sauté pan over medium high heat — do not allow garlic to turn dark brown or it will become bitter. Remove smashed cloves and discard garlic, then add steaks, cooking to medium rare, usually 3-4 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of the cut, of course). The notion is medium rare with a nice crust on the outsides. Transfer steaks to platter and loosely tent with foil.

Deglaze pan by adding cognac and cook until liquor begins to evaporate; then, add stock and cook until reduced more than a half. Whisk in Dijon mustard until it is incorporated and smooth in texture. Add cream and some additional cognac to fortify; then increase heat some and allow to lightly simmer until thickened. Place steaks back into the sauce until just nicely bathed on both sides (no cooking here), remove to plates and serve, spooning sauce over each.

Accompany with mashed potatoes, new potatoes with dill, gratin dauphinois, roasted asparagus with pine nuts or a salad with radishes, and a full bodied Cotes du Rhone, Bordeaux, California cabernet sauvignon or Oregon zinfandel.

Pourboire: for an even lighter version, ditch the sauce and grill the peppered steak over hot coals.


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