Steak au poivre is a classic French bistro dish that is perfect for a special occasion: the cream and brandy make the dish extremely rich, but also extremely delicious. Steak au poivre was part of my husband’s and my Valentine’s dinner, along with sauteed potatoes, an arugula salad, a great California wine (called “The Prisoner”) and blood orange sorbet with candied fennel and kumquats for dessert. My kind of food: fairly simple, not a terrible pain to make, but utterly delicious.
I used dry-aged organic boneless New York Strip steaks. (I wasn’t able to find grass-fed dry-aged steaks – in fact, I’m not sure if anyone is dry-aging grass fed steaks in my area. If you know of anyone, please let me know!). The steaks I used were *just* hormone- and antibiotic-free. Dry aging is a process where pieces of meat are hung in a low-humidity environment with circulating air. This special environment causes the meat to lose quite a bit of moisture, concentrating the beefy flavor of the cut. Natural enzymes also create a tenderizing effect in the meat. Dry aged beef is relatively expensive, owing to the fact that so much weight is lost during the aging process. It’s worth trying for a special occasion if you can get your hands on it. Otherwise, try this recipe with hangar steak, or fillet mignon; it would even be good with a couple of lean pork chops. Don’t be tempted to remove a great deal of fat on whatever cut you use, or you run the risk of ending up with a dry steak.
Take the steaks out of the refrigerator at least an hour before cooking to allow to come to room temperature. The instructions below are for medium-rare. Decrease cooking time if you prefer your steaks more rare, and increase if you prefer your steaks more well-done. If you can, start the steaks around the same time as you start your sauce. This way, the sauce can continue to reduce during the 15 minutes the steaks are resting. Don’t over reduce the sauce or you’ll end up with a gloppy mess that probably won’t taste very delicious.
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, finely minced
4 tablespoons brandy or cognac
2 tablespoons green peppercorns packed in brine, drained, rinsed, and half crushed with the back of a spoon
2 cups homemade or high-quality beef stock
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
1 1/2 pounds dry aged New York strip steaks (2 steaks, about 1 1/4-inch thick each), trimmed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Special Equipment: A large saucepan with an oven-proof handle
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the shallots and saute until they have softened, 2-3 minutes. (Do not let brown.)
- Add the brandy or cognac, turn up the heat to high and reduce the brandy by half.
- Add the beef stock, the green peppercorns, and the whipping cream. Boil the sauce over high heat until it has reduced by at least 1/3, or until the sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon. When finished reducing, taste and correct for salt.
- Meanwhile, generously salt and pepper the steaks.
- In a large saucepan with an oven-proof handle, heat the canola or grapeseed oil until very hot, but not smoking. Add the steaks and saute (without moving) on one side for 2 minutes. Using tongs, flip the steaks and sear on the second side for another 2 minutes.
- Transfer the saute pan to the oven. Cook for another 3 1/2 – 4 minutes, flipping the steaks halfway through cooking. Remove immediately to a plate and tent with foil. Let rest for at least 15 minutes.
- Serve the steaks with the sauce on top.