Until fairly recently, steak au poivre was one of those dishes I never understood.
Too many peppercorns, disguising one of my favorite flavors — steak.
Then in Nice, I had an attitude-changing steak au poivre.
A perfect amount of peppercorns, cognac and cream.
Enhancing, rather than masking the essential steak flavor.
In the mood to recreate it I tried to find a simple recipe. Since Alton Brown is usually unbelievably obsessive, his recipe looked like what I was longing for. Serves 4:
Steak au Poivre Recipe
- 4 tenderloin steaks, 6 to 8 ounces each and no more than 1 1/2″ thick
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup Cognac plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 cup heavy cream
Remove the steaks from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature.
Sprinkle all sides with salt.
Coarsely crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle, or the bottom of a cast iron skillet.
Spread the peppercorns evenly onto a plate. Press the steaks into the pepper until it coats all the surfaces. Set aside.
In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil. As soon as the butter and oil begin to turn golden and smoke, place the steaks in the pan. For medium-rare, cook for 4 minutes on each side. Once done, remove the steaks to a plate, tent with foil and set aside. Pour off the excess fat but do not wipe or scrape the pan clean.
Remove the pan from the heat, add 1/3 cup Cognac to the pan and very carefully ignite the alcohol with a long match or firestick. Gently shake pan until the flames die.
Return the pan to medium heat and add the cream. Bring the mixture to a boil and whisk until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Add the tablespoon of Cognac, taste and adjust the seasonings. Add the steaks back to the pan, spoon the sauce over, serve and enjoy!
First of all, be very careful when you’re setting any alcohol on fire (and always hold the pan away from yourself)!! Even though I was really paying attention, the height of the flames was a little scary.
We had a mystery steak in the freezer that I used for this. Something local and not Skittle-fed. I’m not terribly fond of tenderloin and the French generally use entrecote which is sort of similar to a strip steak. In other word, while it wasn’t the best steak, it wasn’t the steak’s fault.
Because I wasn’t sure what it was, I coated it with the crushed peppercorns—some good ones I had brought back from France and cooked it sous-vide (125° for 90 minutes if you’re interested). Perfectly cooked.
The sauce was another story. I’m not sure what the problem was. I used good ingredients (and followed the recipe) but it was pretty ho-hum. Certainly nowhere near life-changing!
Do you have a good recipe for steak au poivre, or any suggestions?