Steak Au Poivre

1 thick-cut, well-marbled strip steak, about 1 pound total weight, and 1 1/2 inches thick
2 tablespoons mixed whole peppercorns, including black, white, green and Sichuan
Salt, tot taste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
For the pan sauce:
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons cognac (or bourbon or red wine)
1/2 cup flavorful dark stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
Chopped parsley for garnish

Trim the steak of all the surrounding fat and cartilage. Cut the meat into two pieces and crush the peppercorns using the bottom of a heavy skillet.

Sprinkle salt to taste on the top and bottom of the steaks; then press each side into the cracked peppercorns, encrusting the steaks lightly or heavily, as you prefer.

Heat the oil and the butter in a heavy saute or frying pan over high heat. When the pan is quite hot, lay the peppered steaks in. Fry for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until the undersides are well-seared. Turn the meat and cook the second side for about a minute. Press with a finger to test for the slight springiness that indicates rare. Cook to desired doneness and remove to a warm platter.

To make the sauce, add the shallots to the pan and saute briefly, stirring with a spoon to scrape up the drippings. Lean away from the stove (averting your face) and pour the cognac into the pan; tilt the edge of the pan slightly, over the burner flame, to ignite the alcohol. The cognac will flame for a few seconds as the alcohol burns off. Cook for a few moments more and then add the stock. Bring the liquid back to the boil, and cook about 1 minute to thicken the sauce, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Finally, add the soft butter, swirling the pan until it melts and incorporates with the juices.
When blended, pour the sauce over the steaks. Sprinkle liberally with chopped parsley.

Makes 2 servings.

— "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home" by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999)


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