Pepper steak

Honestly, I had never heard of this dish until I saw it on Alton Brown’s show Good Eats. I imagine had I frequented French restaurants I would have seen it on menus. From what I gather, it is a popular French dish. But I got turned off to French restaurants when I was in my twenties because of the portion size of the dishes. So they just aren’t in my restaurant frequenting rotation. I really don’t have anything against french cuisine; I am just a glutton.

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So this is the first time making these peppercorn crusted beauties. The longest part of the entire prep was oven roasting the potatoes. These steaks are pan flash fried, rested, then it was the cognac (watch your eyebrows!) cream sauce that most certainly sealed the deal for me. I couldn’t get a picture of me igniting the cognac in the pan before the flame went out; just not fast enough.

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While I watched Mr. Brown prepare his steak au poivre, I remember thinking how I love a generous sprinkling of black pepper on my steak, probably more than the next person. And while I am no stranger to cracked peppercorns pressed into proteins, but encrusting a whole plate of cracked peppercorns onto both sides of an 8 ounce steak looked a lot like overkill. It’s not. Not even close. I used red, a few white, and black peppercorns and I got a really nice balance of pepper taste and texture.

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Naturally, as with any dish, there are multiple variations. Some use shallots, some Dijon mustard, some use brandy, and some use stock. Anthony Bourdain’s recipe calls for dark veal stock instead of cream. This means nothing more to me than another way to get the tasty job done.

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Recipe after the jump…

Pepper steak


4 steaks, (I used ribeyes) 6 to 8 ounces each, 3/4 to 1 inch thick
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns (more if necessary)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup good Cognac
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Good salt


1. Remove steaks from refrigerator at least 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to cooking. Season both sides of steaks generously with salt.

2. Crush peppercorns with a mortar and pestle or in a plastic bag with a heavy pan. Don’t make them a powder; just want them cracked. Place peppercorns onto a plate, place steaks onto the peppercorns, and press the steaks so the peppercorn adhere. Do this for both sides.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the olive oil. When it shimmers, add the butter. When the butter begins to smoke, add the steaks. Cook the steaks to desired doneness; about 3 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove steaks and cover to keep warm. Let them rest 5 minutes.

4. While steaks are resting, make the sauce. Take pan off the flame and carefully pour in the cognac. If feeling adventurous, ignite the cognac and shake pan until flames die. Return pan to medium heat and scrape the bottom to get all the bits. Add cream and mustard. Bring to a boil while whisking until reduced and the sauce can coat the back of a wooden spoon. Return steaks to the pan to coat in sauce. Plate and pour sauce over.

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