Preparing a Peppery Steak: Steak au Poivre
When you look at the amount of black pepper in this recipe for Steak au Poivre, you may think a fire extinguisher nearby would be a good idea. Surprisingly, the finished steak isn’t a tongue scorcher. Maybe it has something to do with protein in the meat.
A superior steak au poivre requires a very hot pan. The best skillet to use is a cast iron skillet, which takes 3 or 4 minutes to reach the smoking point. The advantage is that, because cast iron is so thick, it remains super hot when food is added (thin pans can lose heat when something as hefty as a steak is tossed in). The constant heat creates a beautiful crust.
Check the steak midway through cooking (5 to 7 minutes per side); it should be dark but not black. If it’s blackening, reduce the heat.
Steak au Poivre
Preparation time: About 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10–15 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
4 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 trimmed boneless strip steaks, each about 1-1⁄2 inches thick; about 1-1⁄2 pounds total
4 tablespoons minced shallots or white onions
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
3⁄4 cup dry red wine
1⁄4 cup fresh or canned beef stock
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle, with a pepper grinder on very coarse setting, or with the bottom of a heavy skillet on a very hard surface.
Lay the steaks over the peppercorns to coat on all sides. Pat in the pepper with your hand.
Lightly oil a heavy skillet (cast iron is best) and heat to nearly smoking. Lay the steaks in the pan and quickly sear both sides (1 minute per side).
Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 5 to 7 minutes per side for medium-rare. (Check doneness by making a small cut in the thickest part of the meat with a paring knife.) Transfer the steaks to a dish.
Over medium heat, add the shallots or onions and 1 tablespoon of butter. Cook for a minute and add the brandy (if desired) and red wine.
Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to remove the bits of meat clinging to the pan. Reduce liquid to half its volume.
Add the stock and tomato paste, stirring. Reduce the liquid by roughly one-third.
Add the remaining butter, and stir constantly until it melts. Season to taste. Serve immediately over the steaks.
Per serving: Calories 469 (From Fat 315); Fat 35g (Saturated 16g); Cholesterol 124mg; Sodium 145mg; Carbohydrate 6g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein 31g.
Four tablespoons of peppercorns make for a wonderfully hot and spicy sauce, but if you prefer a milder sauce, use only 2 to 3 tablespoons.