Saturday, March 15, 2008

Steak au Poivre (Steak with Cracked Peppercorns)

The outcome of this recipe can only be described as a foodgasm. It's a traditional French dish and now it's one of my favorite ways to prepare steak. Anoka Meat Market was selling something called "butter steak", and I figured, butter + steak = how bad could it be? It was some kind of well-marbled strip cut and the price was right. Over the past couple of weeks I kept hearing references to Steak au Poivre, and figured I'd put my outrageous spice collection (and my awesome wooden mallet) to work and try out the recipe.

Side note: If you're curious about the mallet, Dan made it in his wood-turning class to replace the mochi pounder, which didn't survive the trip back from NY. It comes in handy a lot, and I mainly use it to crush spices and pound sauerkraut. We're working on making an even better design (the one in these photos is a prototype).

The recipe is very simple and based mainly on Julia Child's version. She calls for a combination of peppercorns, Szechuan pepper, and allspice for extra flava.

I should be getting kickbacks from Penzeys.

1) Pat dry two tender strip steaks. If possible, allow them to come to room temperature before cooking.

2) Crush 5 tablespoons of peppercorns, including as many of the following as possible:
  • black peppercorns
  • white "
  • green "
  • pink "
  • Szechuan "
  • whole allspice

To keep them from flying around the kitchen, place them in a sturdy ziploc while crushing. You're done when there are no fragments larger than 1/2 of a peppercorn.

Trivia alert! Red peppercorns, Szechuan peppercorns and allspice (aka 'Jamaican pepper') are not actually true pepper (Piper nigrum). However, they still count in your tally so you can impress your foodie friends by saying you used six kinds of pepper. See this link for more information on being the coolest white person in town.

3) Smear the steaks on both sides with olive oil or softened butter. Press the peppercorns into all sides, trying to distribute them evenly.

4) Heat up a thick-bottomed pan good and hot with a generous portion of butter + olive oil in the bottom. When the oil just begins to brown, put the steaks in and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. The steaks are traditionally served rare to medium rare with a browned and crispy outside.

5) When the steaks are mostly cooked, remove them from the pan and place them on a plate with a loose tent of foil to rest and finish cooking while you make a pan sauce.

This pan was a bit too small.

6) To the remaining hot oil and drippings, add 3 finely chopped shallots (or in my case, 1/3 of a red onion) and cook until they are soft and just begin to brown. Add 3/4 c. red wine and cook this down, stirring with a whisk, until the wine is syrupy and reduced. Whisk in 3 Tbsp. softened butter and season with salt. I'm told you can also use cognac or brandy.

7) Pour the sauce over the steaks and serve with yummy side dishes. I picked salt potatoes and peas, though apparently french fries and a green salad would be traditional.

Basically Steak au Poivre creates a taste explosion in your mouth--the good kind of explosion. The pepper isn't as spicy as you might imagine and it combines with the bleeding red meat, butter, and wine to make a smooth, decadent meal. Some recipes call for heavy cream instead of butter, but I fear that would become a garish purple with the wine. You can even leave the shallots or onions out! Just keep it simple and don't overcook the meat or skimp on butter. Words to live by!


Anonymous said...

try making au poivre with a cognac and cream

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