This steak au poivre recipe is so quick and delicious, you could find yourself making it over and over again. The sauce that is stirred together in the same pan is made from Cognac and cream - perfect with pepper steak.
The Cognac Sauce
Cognac brandy goes great with beef and other meats. If you are going to be doing a lot of French cooking, you will probably want to keep a bottle on hand. You do not have to use the very best Cognac in your recipes. Save that for a stormy winter night by the fire.
Since a lot of this steak au poivre recipe gets eaten here in France, the grocery store carries a bottle of crushed pepper called Le Steak, marketed just for recipes such as this. However, pre-crushed pepper (poivre concassé) has much less flavor and aroma then that which you get from grinding your own in a mortar and pestle. Use a mixture of peppercorns (green, pink, white and black) for the best results. If you do use precrushed pepper for this steak au poivre recipe, make sure that it is only coarsely ground (no fine pepper like you get out of the shaker).
Makes 2 to 4 servings (depends on how much you consider a serving).
1 pound, one-inch thick steaks (round steak or rump steak works well)
1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup Cognac
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
salt to taste
Use a mortar and pestle to roughly grind the pepper - this takes about 2 minutes of grinding. Remove the steaks from the refrigerator and using your fingers coat them with the ground pepper. Allow the meat to come to room temperature - about 45 minutes.
Warm a skillet on medium heat until it is heated through. Add the butter and olive oil. The butter should sizzle. When it has melted, add the meat. Cook for 4 minutes on one side, then flip and cook for 4 more minutes on the other side. If you like very rare meat, decrease cooking time. If you like well done beef, eat something else. (Just kidding.) You can check the meat towards the end of cooking time, by slicing into it. Season the steaks with salt to your taste.
As soon as they are cooked as you like, remove the meat from the pan and cover with aluminum foil to keep them warm. Drain off the liquid from the pan and replace on heat. Immediately add the Cognac. Bring the Cognac to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula to incorporate all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Continue boiling until the cognac is reduced by about half - about 2 minutes. Add the cream or half and half and bring just to a boil. You can also stir in juice from the meat that has been kept warm. Season to taste with salt.
Place the steaks on dinner plates, and pour sauce on top. Serve immediately.
How to Pan Fry Steaks
I am not a huge fan of frying steaks in the kitchen - aren't they better when my husband cooks them on the grill? You bet! However, for the sake of delicious and easy results, I have gradually learned a few tips for pan frying beef without too much pain.
Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking it. This can take from 30 minutes to an hour, so you will need to remember in advance of when you are planning on serving. In the steak au poivre recipe here, the meat soaks up the pepper flavor as it is warming. Bringing steak to room temperature makes it much easier to get the inside cooked as you like it without having to char the outside.
Expect smoke. Beef should be pan fried at a fairly high temperature for good flavor. The trade off is that the process is noisy and smoky and no doubt a bit messier than you may wish. Just get through the smoky part and you'll soon be enjoying a delicious dinner - hopefully not in the kitchen!
Leave it alone. Once I realized I didn't have to hover over the hot sputtering pan, frying a steak became a much more enjoyable task. Just heat the pan thoroughly on medium heat, put the meat in and don't touch it until it's time to flip it. A one inch steak needs between three and four minutes per side to be medium rare. It doesn't need to be hovered over.
Salt it after it has cooked. This is my personal preference and up for debate. Some cooks even recommend coating the meat in salt and allowing it to sit for hours, then removing the salt before cooking. I think salting afterwards results in a more tender steak and you tend to use less salt. Always a plus.
Keep it warm. Beef needs to hang out for a few minutes after cooking for maximum taste. You don't want it getting cold in the meanwhile though, so cover it with a piece of aluminum foil.