Sometimes I need inspiration to get my butt in the kitchen. Sometimes that inspiration comes from food. Sometimes it comes from friends and sometimes it comes from words. Even French words. Steak au Poivre.
I like words. I like alliteration. I like French words.
Poivre et Poire! How could I not make that? And how come I never thought of using those words, err, I mean ingredients together before?
But this recipe has more going for it than merely an overly cute name. It’s an amalgamation of a combination of several classic ideas.
It did not start out that way.
I set off to make a pretty straightforward seared steak with a green peppercorn pan sauce (Steak au Poivre). I’m sure you have made something similar. Hot pan, crusty bits of beef– de-glazed with cognac. Add some stock and finish with a bit of cream or butter.
Which makes a nice sauce but leaves you with a pretty boring piece of meat. Because the only steak I had in the house was filet. Now filet has a nice soft (buttery– there I said it) texture. But that’s about all it has. It a bit flat in the flavor department. I pretty much never make filet of beef without adding something to give it some weight. A nice sauce is a good start but it’s not really far enough by half. The classic is a green peppercorn cream sauce. But a creamy sauce and a soft-textured piece of beef make me want to bite my own tongue. Really it’s just too soft a combination in most cases.
I also like to steal from my grill master friends and give a filet either a good strong rub or a bold-flavored crust.
Black pepper makes a bold-flavored crust. Steak au poivre is a classic preparation. I could have gone that way. But I didn’t.
However, I did give my filet of beef a simple, flavorful crust. But my crust is from soft green peppercorns. Made slightly sweet and a bit exotic with allspice and a touch of brown sugar. I also added dried pink peppercorns for color and their fruity appeal.
Steak au Poivre
Not quite a classic steak au poivre. The green peppercorns make a lighter, fruitier crust than the traditional version and the pear vinegar (the poire you’ve been waiting for) makes an unusual pan sauce and adds just the right sweet punch.
My brother Grant has paired this steak with a Cabernet in the Classic Napa style. It’s from Wente. Now, Wente is a BIG winery. Of course Napa Cabs are BIG wines. But I like the way the boutique style of this Wente Vineyards “Nth Degree” Livermore Valley Cabernet 2006 echos my peared-down version of a BIG classic steak. Pardon my pun.
- 1 t whole allspice berries, crushed
- 1 T whole pink peppercorns, lightly crushed
- 3 T green peppercorns in brine, drained
- 1 T butter, softened
- 1 t brown sugar
- salt as needed
- 4 filets of beef in individually-sized proportions
- 1 T canola oil, or more as needed
- 1⁄4 c pear vinegar, or other fruity vinegar
- 1 c chicken stock
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a small bowl combine all the peppercorns, butter and brown sugar, stirring to form a paste. Set aside.
Add the oil to an oven proof or cast iron skillet. Set over medium high heat until the oil shimmers. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel. Generously salt the filets on both sides. Then smear 1/4 of the paste onto each filet. Add the meat to the hot skillet, peppercorn side down. It will pop and sizzle. Sear until well-browned, about 3 minutes. Flip the meat and move it to the oven to finish cooking to your desired doneness, or to an interior temperature of 125 degrees F for medium-rare. Do not crowd the filets use multiple skillets if necessary.
When finished cooking move the filets to a plate to rest. Set the skillet over medium heat. De-glaze the pan with the pear vinegar. Add the chicken stock and reduce by half until slightly thickened. Strain the sauce into a small bowl. Discard solids.
Serve the steaks, peppercorn side up on a plate with a drizzle of the pear vinegar pan sauce.
Steak au Poivre