Thursday, June 18, 2009

Steak au Poivre - Burnin' Down the House

Did you ever have one of those nights where things just didn't go according to plan? Yes? Well, extend sympathies to me...because I just had one. Please don't call a waahmublance, though. I've already had to call off the fire department. It's a long story. Buckle up...this one's an E-ticket.

Ahead, Steak au Poivre as done by Julia Child and
Jacques P├ępin, sauteed baby bellas and potato swirls. Warning...there were casualties.

To think, it all began in such a peaceful manner. The ingredients were assembled on the counter with care, in hope that great things soon would prepare...Meh. Never mind, that's been done! :)

Steak au Poivre:

This classic dish, Steak au Poivre, is French for steak with peppercorns. It sounds fancy, but it's not hard to prepare. It is served with a flamed cognac pan sauce. Yes, I said, flamed. This is a hint. (Bourbon or red wine may be substituted for the cognac.)


2 thick-cut well-marbled strip steaks, about 1-1/2 inches thick
2 tablespoons mixed whole peppercorns (black, white, green, Szechuan and Jamaican/whole allspice)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter

Pan sauce:

2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons cognac (or bourbon or red wine)
1/2 cup flavorful dark stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature


Trim the steak of all the surrounding fat and cartilage. Crush the peppercorns using the bottom of a heavy skillet (I smashed mine in my mortar and pestle).

Sprinkle salt to taste on the top and bottom of the steaks; then press each side into the cracked peppercorns, encrusting the steaks lightly or heavily, as you prefer.

Heat the oil and the butter in a heavy saute or frying pan over high heat. When the pan is quite hot, lay the peppered steaks in. Fry for about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, until the undersides are well seared. Turn the meat and cook the second side for about a minute. Press with a finger to test for the slight springiness that indicates rare. Cook to desired temperature and remove to a warm platter and cover with foil.

At the same time as the steaks are cooking, you need to also be starting the sauteed mushrooms.

Sauteed Baby Bellas:

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
2 Tbs butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste


In a skillet, melt butter. Add shallots and saute until slightly transluscent:

Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until they are glossy. Add the white wine and balsamic vinegar and reduce the sauce by about a third. Add salt and pepper:

Making the pan sauce:

Add the shallots to the steak pan and saute briefly, stirring with a spoon to scrape up the drippings. Lean away from the stove (averting your face) and pour the cognac into the pan; tilt the edge of the pan slightly, over the burner flame (or use a long match if you have electric), to ignite the alcohol. The cognac will flame for a few seconds as the alcohol burns off.

Cooks note:

This is where things got fun. Recently, we changed our telephones to VoIP. In doing this, we had to upgrade our home alarm system. As part of this upgrade, our smoke detectors were rewired. This might seem like a good thing. Alas. It seems not to be. They are ultra sensitive. What follows is pretty much how it happened.

  • Me: *flaming cognac*
  • Me: *runs to turn off the alarm, flaming pan in hand*
  • ADT Security: We are responding to a fire alarm at your residence.
  • Me: Yes, ma'am. There isn't anything burning. I'm flaming cognac.
  • ADT Security: So, there are flames at your residence?
  • Me: Well, there were, but they are out now. I'm cooking. With cognac.
  • ADT Security: Do you require the fire department at your residence?
  • Me: Only if they want to eat some Steak au Poivre.
  • ADT Security: *Crickets chirp* Is that a no? (No sense of humor here.)
  • Me: Yes, ma'am. Sorry. I'm not burning down the house. Nor am I burning my food...Oh, before you hang up, can you tell me how to reset my alarm?
Oy. This is the second or third time I've set off the alarms. Sheesh.

So, anyway...the casualties you ask? I was also going to post about my lovely potato swirls...but in the mayhem that followed...and my food was ready...and I needed to take pictures...and Byron was really hungry...I didn't get photos of the potatoes! Next time, I promise!

Back to the pan sauce:

Cook for a few moments more and then add the stock. Bring the liquid back to the boil, and cook about 1 minute to thicken the sauce, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning. Finally, add the soft butter, swirling the pan until it melts and incorporates with the juices.

Then, by God. Eat it.

Eat it, and like it. Or else.



Melissa said...

Oh my god, did you really say "Only if they want to eat some Steak au Poivre"? HAHAHAHA!

I can sympathize if only because I set off my alarm from time to time just *roasting* stuff. That thing is too damn sensitive, but I live in an apartment and can't adjust it. I know because I asked. I've always assumed, therefore, that flaming cognac is out of the question. I've wanted to try it when I've read about it too. *Pout*

Love the potato swirls. And dinner was delicious in the end anyway.

I'm so glad you're posting! I really enjoy reading you. :)

Paula Dines said...

"Oh my god, did you really say "Only if they want to eat some Steak au Poivre"? HAHAHAHA!"

I did. Truly. Some people just don't have a sense of humor any more. ;)

I've GOT to do something about these damned alarms. So embarrassing! I can just imagine the conversation at ADT in the future. "'s that Begley woman worries, Maxine. Don't call the fire department. She must be cooking again!"

It was a lovely meal...and thanks, I'm having fun.