After searching for the quintessential Steak au Poivre recipe, I finally discovered it a couple of years ago through Saveur magazine. It has easily become one of my favorite ways to prepare steak. Aaron has been begging me to make this classic French dish for days, which originally became popular in the bistros of Normandy in the 19th century. It's no wonder it's still around today, as it's a beautiful steak covered in a luxurious sauce consisting of cognac and cream. A1 eat your heart out.
I picked up some gorgeous filet mignon steaks from Grazin' Angus at the farmer's market. I love how fast these are to make and yet the delectable sauce would have you think it took all day. The crushed peppercorns create a delicate crust for the steaks and are not hot as you might expect. Once the steaks are sauteed and the sauce is poured on, everything comes together in one harmonious bite. I served these steaks with roasted carrots and potatoes au gratin. I think if I had to choose a last meal, this might be it!
This sauce does require you to use the French technique, flambe (a.k.a. setting the pan on fire). Some of you just lost interest, I know. But don't, it's simply a fancy way to quickly burn off the alcohol in the pan. It sounds dangerous but it's not, in fact, I find it to be quite fun. Just remember to remove the pan from the heat before igniting the cognac, and keep your face averted. Always have a lid nearby to extinguish the flame if necessary. Keep in mind too, the height above your stove. I like to hold the pan off the stove when igniting it, so I don't have to worry about the flames reaching the fan unit, then I place it back on the stove to simmer out. Enjoy!
STEAK AU POIVRE
Slightly adapted from Saveur magazine, Issue 17
4 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
4 6-oz. beef filets, about 1½ to 2 inches thick, brought to room temperature
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/3 cup Cognac
1 cup beef stock, preferably low-sodium
½ cup heavy cream
Sea salt to taste
Wrap the peppercorns in a clean dishtowel and crush using a heavy skillet or mallet (alternatively, you could place them in spice grinder or clean coffee grinder and pulse once or twice). The idea is that they be cracked, not ground. Transfer the peppercorns to a plate. Tie each filet with butcher's twine (if necessary) to keep them together during cooking. Roll the filets in the crushed peppercorns so that they are evenly coated. Season both sides of each filet with salt.
Heat the butter and oil together in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add filets to the pan and cook until well browned on each side, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare (work in batches if your pan is too small to ensure even browning). Transfer steaks to a warm plate, remove butcher's twine, and cover loosely with foil to keep warm while you prepare the sauce.
Add the Cognac to the hot pan and heat for a few moments under low heat. Turn off the heat, and very carefully ignite the Cognac with a long handled match or lighter, keeping your face averted (have a lid nearby to extinguish the flame if necessary). Allow the alcohol to burn off, for about a minute before adding the stock. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan and cook the liquid until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Add the cream and cook, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens slightly, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season sauce with salt to taste and pour over steaks.
Yield: 4 steaks