Tim and I wanted to do a fancy dinner to celebrate Christmas together before both taking off to visit our families. This steak au poivre totally fit the bill - easy to prepare but so rich, delicious, and flavorful. The steaks are covered in what seems like an insane amount of peppercorns, but fear not - the flavor isn't insanely peppery. After the steaks are perfectly cooked (thanks, Tim!), the icing on the cake is an easy pan sauce made with shallots, brandy, and cream while the steak rests. The original recipe actually called for Cognac, but after seeing the price in the store, we decided it was crazy to spend $30 on Cognac that we'd probably never finish - since the alcohol burns off anyway, a less expensive brandy is a perfectly reasonable substitution and we thought the finished sauce was absolutely amazing (both on the steak and soaked up with bread)! We served the steak with braised fennel and buttermilk bread, which complemented it really well - recipes on those last two will be coming soon.
Steak au Poivre (adapted from Fine Cooking)
2 boneless beef strip steaks (about 1 pound total)
1-1/2 T black peppercorns, very coarsely crushed
1 T olive oil
2 T unsalted butter
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 cup brandy (or Cognac if you're feeling fancy)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and season both sides lightly with salt. Coat both sides with the peppercorns, pressing so they adhere. Heat the oil in a 12-inch heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the steaks and cook to your desired doneness (2 to 3 minutes per side for medium rare). Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and tent them with foil. Pour off and discard any fat left in the pan, but not the brown bits.
2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter to the skillet. When the butter is melted, add the shallots and cook until softened, about 1 minute.
3. Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully add the brandy. Return the skillet to medium heat and cook, whisking, until the brandy reduces to a glaze, 1 to 2 minutes. Note: Be very careful here! We have a gas stove and our brandy ignited in a very tall and exciting flame! If you also have a gas stove, you'll definitely want to stand back while the alcohol is cooking off just in case this happens.
3. Whisk in the cream and simmer until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt.
4. Transfer the steaks to dinner plates and top with the sauce.