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There are steaks and then there are STEAKS. You know, the ones you order from your favorite fancy steakhouse, the ones paired with amazing spice rubs, fabulously stinky blue cheeses, or to-die-for béarnaise sauces. Today the Kitchen Bitch is bringing you a straight-from-the-steakhouse classic—Steak au Poivre.
Steak au Poivre, or pepper steak, is a traditional French preparation. The steak, usually filet mignon, is coated in freshly cracked black peppercorns and then seared in butter or oil over very high heat so the peppercorns form a crispy crust and the inside of the steak remains beautifully medium-rare. The creation of a cognac cream sauce using the leftover browned bits (called fond) found in the bottom of the skillet really takes this dish over the top.
However, the real wow factor in this dish is when you flambé (set on fire) the cognac and cream before simmering it down into thick sauce. If you have a stainless steel skillet, this dish can be made on the grill or on your stovetop. I like grilling my steak au poivre outside because it does involve flambé, which can be dangerous if not done correctly. REMEMBER: You must remove the pan from the stovetop or grill before adding the cognac. Otherwise, a dangerous fire could harm you or your sous chefs. Never fear, though, flambé is a simple cooking technique used mostly to impress your guests and to cook out some of the alcohol in a dish. When done correctly, it’s a harmless procedure, just be sure to take the necessary precautions.
This flaming steak dinner is sure to impress your friends and family. I served mine with grilled asparagus and tomato-topped polenta tartlets, which I’ll be doing a post on later this week. Bon appétit!
Steak Au Poivre
This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown and serves 4. Cognac is a specific kind of brandy named after the town of Cognac, France. If you can’t find cognac, any kind of brandy will do.
4 (6 to 8 oz.) tenderloin steaks, no more than 1.5-in.thick
2 Tbs. whole peppercorns
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 tsp. olive oil
1/3 c. Cognac, plus 1 teaspoon
1 c. heavy cream
Bring steaks to room temperature. Remove the steaks from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour prior to cooking. Sprinkle all sides with salt.
Prepare peppercorns. Coarsely crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle, the bottom of a cast iron skillet, or using a mallet and pie pan. Spread the peppercorns evenly onto a plate. Press the fillets, on both sides, into the pepper until it coats the surface. Set aside.
Cook steaks. In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil. As soon as the butter and oil begin to turn golden and smoke, gently place the steaks in the pan. For medium-rare, cook for 4 minutes on each side. Once done, remove the steaks to a plate, tent with foil and set aside. Pour off the excess fat but do not wipe or scrape the pan clean.
Make cognac sauce. Off of the heat, add 1/3 cup Cognac to the pan and carefully ignite the alcohol with a long match or firestick. Gently shake pan until the flames die. Return the pan to medium heat and add the cream. Bring the mixture to a boil and whisk until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Add the teaspoon of Cognac and season, to taste, with salt. Add the steaks back to the pan, spoon the sauce over, and serve.