Steak au poivre or pepper steak is a French dish that consists of a steak, traditionally a filet mignon, coated with loosely cracked peppercorns and then cooked. The peppercorns form a crust on the steak when cooked and provide a pungent but complementary counterpoint to the rich flavor of the high-quality beef. The peppercorn crust itself is made by placing the steak in a bed of cracked black (or mixed) peppercorns. Typically, the steak is seared in a hot skillet with a small amount of butter and oil to cook it. The steak is seared at a high temperature to cook the outside quickly and form the crust while leaving the interior rare to medium rare. The steak is then left to rest for several minutes and then served.
Steak au poivre is often accompanied by a pan sauce consisting of reduced cognac, heavy cream, and the fond from the bottom of the pan, often including other ingredients such as butter, shallots, and/or Dijon mustard. This recipe is from Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris cookbook. Her version does not use cream.
Steak au Poivre
6 filet mignon, cut 1¼ inches thick
2 Tbs coarsely ground black pepper
3½ Tbs unsalted butter, divided
1½ Tbs olive oil
¾ cup chopped shallots (3 to 4 shallots)
1 cup canned beef broth
½ cup good Cognac or brandy
Place the filets on a board and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the filets with salt and then press the black pepper evenly on both sides. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Heat 1½ tablespoons of the butter and the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until the butter almost smokes. Place the steaks in the pan and lower the heat to medium. Sauté the steaks for 4 minutes on 1 side and then for 3 minutes on the other side, for medium rare. Remove the steaks to a serving platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
Meanwhile, pour all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the sauté pan. Add the shallots and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the beef broth and cook over high heat for 4 to 6 minutes, until reduced by half, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the Cognac and cook for 2 more minutes. Off the heat, swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and ½ teaspoon salt. Serve the steaks hot with the sauce poured on top.