Thursday, September 20, 2012

Steak au Poivre

Steak au Poivre -- Peppered Steak in a Brandy Sauce

I am currently really into French-style cooking.  So much that I bought Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking book to really learn how to make delicious French dishes.  The first dish I decided to make from this book was Steak au Poivre, or peppered steak in a brandy sauce.  This was one of my favorite dishes I had in France.  There are only a small handful of sauces that can accompany a filet without spoiling the natural flavor of the cut and this is one of them, if done right.  Julia's recipe did not disappoint!  The flavor was absolutely marvelous.  The sauce, simply outstanding.

Perfecting the recipe (peppercorns more crushed).  also served with garlic mash potatoes and sautéed mushrooms

This is totally a quick dish to make and definitely delicious.  The longest part is actually cooking the steak.  The sauce takes < 10 minutes, including prep work.  Also, cooking with Cognac is totally primal, in moderation.  Check out Mark's Daily Apple's A Guide to Healthy Drinking.

In France, some of the restaurants added heavy cream to the sauce, probably about 1/2 - 1 cup.  Use that instead of the butter at the very end, or in addition if want creamy.  Please do not destroy the dish and use coconut milk.  NOT THE SAME DEAL.  For the heavy cream, you can add it after the brandy and over medium heat.  I like the sauce with a splash of cream and about 2Tbsp of butter.


Ingredients for the Steak:
  • 2 Tbsp of a mixture of several kinds of whole Peppercorns
  • 2-2.5lb Grass-Fed Steak (0.75-1" thick)... traditionally Filet Mignon, or filets.
  • 1/2 Tbsp Grass-Fed Butter (I like the Kerrygold brand, unsalted)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt (the "fancy" kind, trust me you can taste the flavor!)
Ingredients for the Peppercorn-Brandy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Grass-Fed Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Shallots, minced
  • 1/2 cup Beef Stock or Bouillon 
  • 1/3 cup Cognac
  • 3-4 Tbsp Grass-Fed Butter, softened (I like 2-2.5 Tbsp)
  • Splash of Heavy Cream (just what I like)
  • Salt to taste

2. All ingredients + my current favorite Pinot Noir in the background.

Instructions for the Filet / How I Like to Cook a Steak on a Cast Iron:
  1. Gather all ingredients.  Crush the peppercorns roughly with a pestle.  Dry the steaks on paper towels.  Trim off excess fat.  Use the food processor to finely mince the shallots.  Make sure you have everything ready to go (including for the sauce)!
  2. Using your fingers and the palm of your hand, rub and press the crushed peppercorns into both sides of the meat.  Cover with waxed paper.  Let it stand for at least 1/2 hour or ideally 2-3 hours.  You want to at least bring the meat to room temperature and give the peppercorns time to penetrate the meat.
    3. Peppercorn seasoned filets.
  3. When you are ready to cook the steaks, put the 1.5 Tbsp of butter and 1.5 Tbsp of olive oil in the cast iron skillet over high heat.
  4. When you see the butter foam begin to subside, add the steaks.  Don't touch them or move them around.. just once to flip them!  For medium-rare filets, cook them on one side for ~3 minutes.  Then turn the steaks and cook the other side for another 3 minutes.  The steak is medium rare when you see red juice beginning to ooze at the surface of the steak.
    4. Steak saute.
  5. Remove the filets to a hot platter to keep it warm.  Season with sea salt.  Immediately start making the sauce.
Immediately start making the sauce using the same cast iron skillet.  Haha, this sauce is pretty much just butter, so please use quality butter.

Instructions for the Brandy Sauce:
  1. Use the same cast iron skillet.  Pour the fat out of the skillet.
  2. Still over high heat, add the 1 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp minced shallots and cook slowly for 1 minute.
    5. Meat juices + shallots popping in hot butter.
  3. Pour in the 1/2 cup beef stock or bouillon and boil it down rapidly over high heat while scraping up the coagulated cooking juices.
    6. Beef stock added.
  4. Add the 1/3 cup cognac and boil rapidly for 1-2 minutes to evaporate the alcohol.  Make sure the alcohol is boiled off completely, else the alcohol taste remains in the brandy, and hence spoiling the taste of the meat.  To prevent the crazy (and unnecessary) flames, I turned the heat down to low temporarily, just to pour in the cognac.  I slowly poured it in from the side of the dish.  Once the brandy is in the skillet, I turned the heat back up.  I also tried making this dish while creating the large flames... and honestly, it taste the same.

    7. + cognac.
  5. Off heat, swirl in the softened butter a half-tablespoon at a time.  The recipe says use 3-4 Tbsp.  I ended up using 3.5 Tbsp.  Just go by taste.
  6. Pour the sauce over the filets.  Serve and enjoy!
    9. Mmmmm food porn.

Normally this dish is served with potatoes.  Instead, and to keep it (more) Paleo, haha, I served it with asparagus braised in butter (yes, more butter!).  The side dish does not need to be fancy.  In fact it should be simple, since the flavor is in the filet and the sauce.

10. SImple asparagus.

You can cook this simultaneously.  Before cooking the steak, preheat the oven to 325F.  Smear a baking dish with 1Tbsp of butter.  Put the asparagus in.  Season with (high quality) salt and pepper.  Toss the asparagus a bit so they are all covered in butter, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook in the middle of the oven for 10-15 minutes.  They should be ready by the time the sauce is done.  The asparagus should be not burnt and soft but with a small crunch.

11. Yummm!

Hope you guys enjoy this dish just as much as I did.  Looking forward to making more recipes from Julia... and maybe Paleo/Primal-tizing some of them!

Related Recipes: absolutely delicious with Sauteed Mushrooms!