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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Steak au Poivre: Bring a defibrillator and let's party!

The way to a man's heart is with a steak smothered in cream sauce
(and a defibrillator!)
You'd be surprised by the amazing dishes you can make once you get the sauté down. This is a rich, decadent dish that's perfect for a date night when you want to impress someone. The best part is that they don't have to know how ridiculously easy it is.

Since this meat entree is so decadent, it pairs really well with steamed veggies and french bread. It should also be followed by a very light dessert. Unless, of course, you're on the Atkins diet, in which case you should wolf down this entire delicious meal by yourself.

Steak with a rich cream sauce? My arteries!!! I'm here to call bologna on all that nonsense. Have you seen the French? They live forever. And most of them smoke! I don't eat fried food, but the amount of heavy cream and rich butter (not olive oil) in my daily diet is enough to make even the most liberal of cardiologists squeamish. How's my cholesterol and triglycerides? Nearly perfect. Maybe it's just good genes, maybe it's that I don't like fried food. Either way, give me butter or give me death.

Traditionally, this dish is made with filet mignon but that's expensive and you'll break the bank trying to make it for a group of people. I use a very thickly cut New York Strip steak (also known as the "club steak", "porterhouse steak" or "Delmonico steak".) If you're looking at a T-bone steak, it's just on the other side from the filet mignon. You can get two servings from one steak and you have a little piece leftover that's delicious for a snack later. Whenever I use steak for any receipe, I always salt the meat about 24 hours before and then leave it in the refrigerator on a rack loosely covered. This allows the salt to absorb into the meat really well and also allows the surface to dry out. As Julia Child taught us, you can't sear wet meat. It won't caramelize and it splatters everywhere! If you don't have time to let it sit first, make sure to blot well with clean paper-towels immediately before putting into the hot pan. If you don't see one that's at least 1 1/2" thick, any grocery store outside of Walmart or Target will cut one for you on the spot. True story!

Sometimes I add mushrooms after removing the sautéed steak.

This dish is traditionally made with fresh cracked black pepper (that's the "au poivre" part), but I really like to kick it up a bit by using Montreal Steak Seasoning instead. (Hey immigration - Montreal is French too so please let me in to visit when I come back. Viva la France!) I usually just buy the brand in the store pre-mixed, but if you can't find it, you can make it by mixing the following ingredients:

Montreal Steak Seasoning:
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons crushed black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon granulated onion
  • 1 tablespoon crushed coriander
  • 1 tablespoon dill
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

Steak au Poivre

  • New York Strip Steak, at least 1 1/2" thick (1 steak serves two people)
  • Montreal Steak Seasoning (or lots of fresh cracked black pepper and some salt)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 pint mushrooms, quartered (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cognac, measured into a measuring glass
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish, optional)

  1. About 24 hours before you plan to make it, season the steaks with Montreal Steak Seasoning, loosely cover, and leave on a rack in the refrigerator.
    24 hours of soaking up the rub!
  2. If using the New York Strip steaks instead of filet mignon, trim off the fat from the edges. Cut the pointy piece off the end (but save it and cook it with the rest). Cut the remaining larger pieces in half to be about the size of filet mignon.
    Takes a whole 2 seconds to cut this bad boys up!
  3. Preheat a very heavy bottom stainless steel pan over medium-high heat until VERY hot. Add the butter, swirl around the pan and as soon as it's about half melted, add the steaks. (Don't use a non-stick pan unless you want to inhale noxious fumes and possibly kill your bird.)
    Don't  be sliding them around or pressing on them, just leave them alone :)

  4. Sear the steaks for about 4 minutes one one side without disturbing them, then flip them over and sear for another 4 minutes. (This should give you a medium steak, depending on how thick it is cut.)
    Makes me want to sing the French National Anthem!
  5. Remove the steak from the pan and cover the meat loosely with foil.
  6. If you're using mushrooms, add them to the pan and sear until deliciously cooked, then remove them from the pan. Otherwise, skip to the next step.
  7. Pour out any remaining melted butter from the pan, but try to keep all the little crispy bits leftover from the steak. That's an important part of the sauce!
  8. Put the pan on the stove and TURN OFF THE BURNER OR ANY BURNER NEAR IT. I cannot express to you how important this step is. I can personally testify that it takes about 6 months for your eyebrows and eyelashes to grow back, thanks to the first time I made bananas flambe.
  9. Pour the cognac into the pan, then step back to light it with a long lighter. Gently tilt the pan in multiple directions until the flame goes out. Stir to collect the brown bits from the bottom.
    From a measuring cup, NOT the bottle! The bottle is basically a bomb in your hand.
    There's gonna be a pretty big flame so make sure you're not wearing a synthetic wig!

  10. Turn the heat back onto medium-high and reduce the cognac until it is thick and almost syrup-like.
  11. Add the cream and stir occasionally. It will come up to a rolling boil but will eventually subside and then reduce to a thick, smooth gravy like sauce.
  12. Add the steaks and any accumulated juices into the sauce to warm them through.
    How you durrin?
  13. Turn the steaks over a few times to coat them with the sauce, then serve on a plate. Spoon extra sauce over the steaks. If you have fresh parsley on hand, it makes a nice garnish. Clearly, as you can see, I did not. :)

Stop oogling our steak and put your pants back on!

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