07 August 2010

Steak au poivre. Even purists will love it.

When it comes to steak, I'm a purist. Salt, pepper, maybe a tad of herb butter and I'm happy. No crazy marinades, no BBQ sauce, no oysters, thank you. Oh, and medium rare, please.

But sometimes you may need a tiny bit more, maybe a little sauce to make the fries go down easier. And this is where Alton Brown comes in. In his show "Good Eats" he did not only present how to manage to get steaks out of a whole fillet, he also made a very minimalistic sauce. Just cream, cognac and pepper. It's a dream, it goes perfectly well with a steak without totally smothering its taste. Just what I like.

adapted from Alton Brown

2 tenderloin steaks, 4 cm / 1.5 inches thick
coarse salt
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
80 ml / 1/3 cup Armagnac or Cognac, plus 1 teaspoon
250 ml / 1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon veal fond, powdered
1 teaspoon maple syrup
a dash of lemon juice
small packet of (frozen) fries

First, the steaks. Marvelously marbled, aren't they? Make sure you have steaks at least 1 inch / 2.5 cm thick, but if you like them medium rare (the only way to go, really) have them cut 1.5 inch / 4 cm thick.

Get them out 30 to 60 minutes before you start cooking as you want to get them to room temperature. I think it's horrible if a steak is nearly burned on the outside and almost frozen in the middle...

Crush the pepper quite coarsely, either with pestle and mortar or the biggest setting on your pepper mill.

Sprinkle the steaks with salt and cover them with the coarse pepper. Press it on lightly with your fingers, but no need to worry if some pepper corns fall off.

Meanwhile, start making the fries with your preferred method.

Heat up your pan (I prefer cast iron) on medium-high, melt the butter and add the olive oil. Nobody knows why, but a bit of oil prevents butter from going brown so quickly.

Put in the steaks and set the timer for 4 minutes. 4 cm and 4 minutes results in medium rare. Genius! Turn them over and give them another 4 minutes.

Then get them out on a warmed plate and cover them lightly with aluminum foil. Takes quite a bit of patience, but if you were to cut into the steaks right away, all the good juices would run out and leave you with a dry bit of meat. Not good.

Pour in the Cognac or Armagnac, then start scraping on the bottom of the pan to remove all the pepper corns and delicious crusts.
DO NOT SET TO FIRE! 80 ml is quite an amount of alcohol and I would nearly have set my kitchen to fire. Instead, let it cook down slowly until it's nearly gone.

Pour in the cream, dissolve the fond powder and let it cook for 5 minutes until the consistency is slightly thicker than regular cream.

Give it a taste and add salt, maple syrup and lemon juice if you like, then serve.

Serve the steak, the fries and the sauce on a nice plate and pour in a nice glass of red wine. Or beer.


  1. Very nice! I used to cook my filets on the grill, but I've found that a skillet allows for better control. Love it!

  2. @Stiggy: Thank you so much! You're right, you can control the heat much better on the stove - I guess it's a good way to learn how to cook steaks, then you can advance to the grill...