Steak au Poivre
(French pepper steak)
This dish is classic French cuisine, with simple elegance and great flavor. Peppercorns form a spicy crust around a meltingly tender beef filet, all topped with a rich cognac cream sauce. Easy to make, steak au poivre is great date food.
- Beef filet mignon steaks, cut about 1-inch thick -- 4 (6 to 8 ounces each)
- Salt -- to season
- Peppercorns -- 1/4 cup
- Oil -- 1 tablespoon
- Butter -- 1 tablespoon
- Cognac -- 1/3 cup
- Heavy cream -- 1 cup
- Remove the beef from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you cook it to let it come to room temperature. Season the fillets lightly with salt and set aside.
- Use a heavy skillet to crush the peppercorns on a cutting board. You can also pulse them lightly in a spice grinder, but make sure you leave them in fairly large pieces. Dredge each side of the fillets in the crushed peppercorns.
- Heat the oil and butter in a saute pan over high flame. Just when the butter and oil begin to smoke, add the filets and let them sear on one side until they release from the pan, about 4 minutes. Turn and sear on the second side for about another 4 minutes for medium-rare steaks. Remove to a plate and tent with foil.
- Pour off any excess oil from the pan and return to the heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the Cognac. Carefully tip the pan to flame the Cognac and let it cook down for about 1 minute, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and simmer for another 4 minutes or so to reduce the cream somewhat. Adjust seasoning with salt.
- Place the steaks on warm serving plates and pour the cream sauce over the top of them. Serve with pommes frites or mashed potatoes and a simple vegetable.
Steak au Poivre Variations
- Filet mignon is the classic cut of meat for steak au poivre, but New York strip steaks or shell steaks are perfectily acceptable substitutes. Just make sure to use a high quality cut of beef meant for sauteing. Ask your butcher.
- You can use all black peppercorns or use a mixture of black, white and green. Some people add an allspice berry or two or a little fennel seed.
- Add a tablespoon or two of minced shallots to the pan before you add the Cognac if you like. You can substitute red wine for Cognac if you have to, but the sauce will turn out kind of a purplish-grey.