Steak au Poivre

Rick Cooks Home Steak au Poivre

The Old European spice trade had a lot to do with the poor quality of Old European meat. One of the reasons pepper (black pepper, not chiles) was so prized was because it disguised the taste of spoiled or inferior cuts of meat.

Today our beef (especially American beef) is just fine by itself, but some classic preparations live on. In fact, this recipe calls for the best boneless cuts of top loin beef you can find or afford: tenderloin, Delmonico, New York Strip, or ribeye. When shopping, try to find serving-size (approx. ½ lb) steaks at least ¾-inch thick.

If you prefer your steaks medium to well-done, don't waste your money on top loin, get a cheaper cut, and make sure you have some sharp steak knives and some Fix-O-Dent on hand.

Although popular in Paris bistros, this dish is served in nearly every restaurant in Brussels. The Brussels-style steak au poivre is served with pommes frites (French-fried potatoes) and mayonnaise sauce. Or you can accompany with Ciro Potatoes or Arroz Anita.

The steaks are pan-seared in a heavy skillet and the drippings are used to make the sauce. You can finish on a grill if you like, but the pan-searing is necessary, as the deglazing absolutely necessary for the sauce.

Some recipes call for demi-glace (basic brown sauce) made from beef stock. If you have some good (i.e., homemade) beef stock on hand, and you know how to make a demi-glace, go ahead and do that. But if not, don't substitute beef bouillon and water, as many recipes suggest -- use the sauce in this recipe instead, which is an easy cream and mustard sauce.

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Steak au Poivre

*4 servings*

4 boneless top loin steaks, about ½lb ea., and at least ¾-in. thick 2 T or more black peppercorns
Salt
¼ c butter
2 T finely chopped shallots or scallions
3 T warm Cognac
2 c heavy cream
1 T Dijon mustard

Trim the steaks of most of their fat.

Using a mortar and pestle, coarsely crush the peppercorns (or place in a heavy plastic bag and pound with a mallet). Pour the crushed pepper onto waxed paper and dredge the steaks on both sides. Press the pepper into the steaks with the heel of your hand. Sprinkle lightly on both sides with salt.

Melt 3 T of butter in a hot heavy skillet and sear the steaks over mediumhigh heat on both sides. Lower the heat and continue cooking, turning occasionally, to the desired degree of doneness as indicated by the resistance to touch. The length of cooking will vary greatly depending upon the initial temperature and thickness of the steak and the temperature of the skillet.

Remove the steaks to a warm platter and cover with foil while you make the sauce.

Add the rest of the butter and the shallots to the skillet. Cook, stirring, about three minutes. Do not brown. Add the Cognac and ignite. Add the cream and cook, stirring frequently, about ten minutes. Turn off the flame and stir in the mustard. Do not cook further.

Pour the hot sauce over the steaks and serve immediately with Ciro Potatoes or Arroz Anita.