My wife went out to dinner with a friend on Friday night and left me all alone. But don't feel too bad for me, because look what I made myself for dinner! As I mentioned before, my wife doesn't eat red meat, so I take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself to get my hands on a steak. So, as soon as I knew that I'd be fending for myself, I started planning my bachelor's feast. I flipped through the Beef, Veal, Pork, and Lamb chapter to pick just the right dish. I had my eye on Steak Diane (p. 427), but I didn't want my wife to think that I was having dinner with another woman. I settled on the Steak au Poivre.
I left work a little early on Friday, and paid a visit to McKinnon's, probably one of the best butcher shops in Southern New Hampshire (McKinnon's can't hold a candle to Jeffrey, Victoria's butcher over at Cooking Zuni, but I'll take what I can get), and picked up this beautiful New York strip steak.
While I was at McKinnon's I decided to pick up a bottle of wine (live it up, right?). I was really happy to find a bottle of Dry Creek Vinyard Heritage Zinfandel on the shelf. When my wife and I went to wine country last year, one of the highlights of our trip was our bicycle tour of the vineyards in the Healdsburg area, and a nice picnic lunch at Dry Creek. The wine went great with my dinner, and brought back nice memories of a great trip.
I got home, poured myself a glass of wine and got to work. First, I had to prepare the poivre. I started with about a tablespoon of peppercorns (the recipe calls for three tablespoons, but the recipe feeds four, and I was only cooking for one). Now, under normal circumstances, I wouldn't eat a tablespoon of black pepper on a bet, but something magical happens to the pepper as you cook this dish that takes such a quantity of pepper from stunt to sublime.
I put the peppercorns in a small plastic bag and crushed them with a frying pan. It took a little bit of effort and some time, but it was worth it. The consistency of coarsely crushed pepper is key to this recipe, you can't get away with a pepper grinder, or (perish the thought!) ground pepper from one of those tins. The great fragrance of black pepper filled the air as I pressed down with the pan, and I was left with a little bag of black gold, that was destined to become the crunchy, spicy crust on my steak.
I patted the pepper into both sides of the steak and let it rest at room temperature while I prepared the Golden Potato Wedges (check back tomorrow) and the watercress garnish.
After the steak was well rested, it went into a skillet with some butter and oil. The only thing better that the sound of a sizzling steak, is the aroma that it gives off. As soon as that smell enters your nostrils, your mouth starts to water, and your stomach starts to grumble. Good thing the steak cooks quickly: just a few minutes on each side.
Once the steak was ready, I removed it to a plate, and got started on the pan sauce. Even though it tasted great in the end, I don't think that my sauce worked out the way it was supposed to. My pan was way too hot, and so the shallots and butter cooked way too fast, the cognac and cream reduced in a matter of seconds rather than a matter of minutes. The result was a very, very thick, almost jam-like sauce. But, it was rich and delicious, and it was just fine by me.
I enjoyed the steak with a good sized mound of watercress like The Book suggested. I love watercress because it's crisp and cool, and it's got a nice peppery bite of its own that went well with the steak. And the steak! That crunchy, peppery crust yielding to the tender, juicy medium-rare steak! If you have to eat alone, this is the way to do it.
Date Cooked: July 25, 2008
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
2 years ago