Steak Au Poivre

Flaming Cognac adds drama and intensifies the steak’s flavor.

Flaming Cognac adds drama and intensifies the steak’s flavor.

A wonderful, flambé dish recipe created in Paris (the city of love), Steak Au Poivre provides a dramatic, tasty option. The dazzling flambé technique involves a splash of liquor lit with a match. But, be careful, because it creates a large flame! It wanes as the alcohol burns off, leaving a definite added flavor and a memorable experience.

Tableside flambé dishes became quite popular in the late 1960s. Those dishes included desserts such as Bananas Foster, Crepes Suzette and Cherries Jubilee, along with entrées Steak Au Poivre and Steak Diane. 

Earlier the same decade, Julia Child earned fame as she introduced French cuisine to much of America.

My mother was a true fan of Julia Child, her cookbooks and television show, The French Chef. My siblings and I all share the same passion for cooking that our mother had instilled. And, we all have the same copies of Julia’s books.

A recipe for Steak Au Poivre appeared in her first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, published in 1961.

I’ve adapted this recipe from Julia Child’s. While this recipe employs flambé, she preferred less drama. In her recipe, Julia uses Cognac but cooks it down rather than lighting liqueur.


Ingredients: Serves 3-4

2 tablespoons peppercorns, crushed
1½ pounds strip steak, cut ¾-inch thick
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons sweet cream butter, unsalted
1 shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup Cognac (or Bourbon)
½ cup beef broth
2 tablespoons heavy cream


Directions

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Pat the steaks dry. Season them on both sides with salt and then press the steaks down on crushed peppercorns on both sides for pepper coating. Wrap the steaks and let stand from half hour up to 2 hours before cooking.

Heat oil with one tablespoon of butter over medium high heat in a skillet until butter begins to bubble. Add the steaks and sauté for 3 minutes then turn the steak and sauté for additional 3 minutes (lower heat if cooking too fast). A nice crust will form on both sides. Remove the steaks to a heated plate. At this point the meat will be rare to medium rare.

Drain the fat from the pan and add the remaining butter and shallots and cook for 2 to 3 minutes over medium low heat. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute stirring constantly. 

Remove the pan from the heat, stand back, add the Cognac and carefully light the alcohol with a long match. (If using a gas stove, it might self-ignite. But if using an electric stove, and the cognac doesn’t light, that’s okay. It will still cook off). Gently shake the pan until the flames go out. 

Return pan to medium-high heat and boil for 2 minutes while scraping bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the broth and cook another 3 to 5 minutes. When it has cooked down, add cream and cook another 2 minutes. Check seasonings.

Return the steaks to the pan, spoon the sauce over them and serve.