Steak au Poivre (-ish)
Cook me like one of those French grills
Okay, this is one of those things that are simple, but you'll pay a lot for in a restaurant. It's not necessarily easy, but it's simple. The trick is in the meat, and in the cooking – what happens in the pan makes or breaks the meal. More on that later….
First things first, meat. This recipe is alllll about meat, so selection is important. You'll want something thick-cut. Like, really thick cut. And at the same time, the more "buttery" the better. The fancy places do filet mignon, but here I've got some 1.5" (or so) thick New York strips, which are far more affordable if you're like me and trying to feed two adults and three ravenous teenagers. Costco meat is a life saver for us.
Now that we've acquired some meats, we're ready to start cooking. Well, almost. Against all good advice, let the steaks rest on the counter until they're up to room temperature. You can cover them with plastic wrap if you're worried about such things, but it's kind of important – the steaks won't cook properly if you don't. Because science or something.
Prep your meats. Rub in a light sprinkle of salt, and then a generous crust of pepper. Cracked is best, but go with what you've got. Someone once told me that a little salt helps the pepper stick better, so I stick to that.
And right now is a good time to think about sides. Figure ~10 minutes cooking time for the steaks, and you want everything else to be ready when they're done. You definitely don't want these steaks to sit around waiting because the magic fairy dust loses potency.
Are you ready? I can wait a few minutes if necessary. From here on out, things move kinda fast, so being prepared is pretty important.
So, let's cook. First things first, get your skillet really hot. Cast iron helps a lot here. It soaks up and holds the heat so there's a better cooking surface. Once it's ready, throw in 3-4 tablespoons of butter and let it get all foamy and stuff. Then add the steaks. Crowding the pan is okay, as you want them to all be done at basically the same time. Sear the steaks, flipping them occasionally so they cook evenly. Keep going until they're just warmed through for rare, a little longer for medium-rare. (I highly don't recommend cooking them longer; it'll be like eating a shoe) As they come off the stove, "tent" them, which is a fancy way of covering them with aluminum foil to keep them warm. Alternately, keep them in a warm oven – I did the latter since I'd made bread earlier and the oven was at a nice temperature – but don't let them sit there too long.
Here is also where I mention that the searing part is the key bit that I mentioned earlier. Getting that good sear on the outside locks in all the meaty goodness, and cooks the pepper into a crust. Too low of a heat, and you'll just cook it. Too much heat and you could get the surface overdone without getting the insides cooked – generally err on the hot side though. Also, err on underdone since steaks this thick cook more, and longer than the grilled variety.
Sauce time! This is the fun part 😀
Add about 1/3 cup of booze to the pan. Purists should use cognac, but I used whiskey, and I think that a decent bourbon would also be good. Each will impart slightly different flavors, so go with the one you like.
Light it on fire. Use a long match, or a torch, or something that won't burn the hairs off your knuckles. It smells bad.
After the satisfying foomp, add 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream and whisk vigorously. Keep going until the sauce reduces some.
Plate, put sauce on meat (in that order) and serve.
- Steaks, at least 1" thick cut (NY Strip, Filet mignon, or simlar). One per person, perhaps 8oz.
- Salt (I use kosher)
- Pepper (preferably cracked)
- 1/3 cup distilled spirits – cognac, whiskey, maybe bourbon.
- 1 cup heavy cream
- something to make fire.
- cast iron skillet if you don't have one.