Steak au poivre

Posted: January 26, 2012 in Beef, Food, French

Unlike many people in my family, my relationship with pepper didn’t start early. Quite often my parents and my brother would praise an even mildly spicy dish, and I’d be complaining that it was too hot. My father even grew some chilies at our house, but I never got too close to them. When I moved to the US over 10 years ago, I thought most foods were quite spicy, even a cheese pizza from Domino’s or Pizza Hut would have me reaching for water… Maybe my taste buds couldn’t take anything other than the lowest foods on the Scoville scale, I simply didn’t like piquant foods.


So when I decided to prepare a Steak au poivre, that was definitely a proof that tastes change. Maybe because of not having another option in many restaurants I went out with friends, I started getting more and more used to spicy foods, up to the point where nowadays I even ask for a few stars in most Thai restaurants. I’m still not up to a “wings of fire” challenge, but I may get there sometime. Meanwhile, I decided to go into the famous French dish when shopping at Costco the filet mignon looked at me and almost begged me to take it home – I had never tried one, but I remember that it looked good when my parents would order one in a restaurant.

The recipe is quite simple, and not overly spicy (the cracked peppercorns ended up being a great compliment to the steak, without overpowering it). I decided to go with one recipe from Alton Brown from Food Network which seemed quite easy. A few modifications I did was that I used whipping cream instead of heavy cream (that’s what I had in the fridge) and followed one of the commenters suggestion to finish the steak on the oven. The sauce ended up a little thinner than the ones I’ve seen in picture over the web (likely because of the difference in the cream), but it turned out really good.

Ingredients (for 4 people):

  • 4 filet mignon steaks, about 1” thick, fat trimmed
  • 2 tbsp. whole peppercorns (I used a mixture of red / green / black I had in my pantry)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup cognac
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • salt

Crack the peppercorns with a mallet (I used a cheesecloth to prevent it from going everywhere in the kitchen), and spread them in a plate. Season the steaks with salt, then press them into the pepper, until the surface is coated.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F (175C). On an oven-proof skillet large enough for all steaks, heat the oil and the butter until it starts smoking. Sear the steaks (1-2 minutes each side), then transfer the pan to the oven for about 10 minutes (for medium; adjust the time for other levels of doneness). Remove the pan from the oven, remove the steaks from it and set them aside (wrapped in a tinfoil tent to keep warm).

Carefully add the cognac to the pan (it may catch fire right away). If it still isn’t on fire, light it up with a long match, then stir the pan scraping the bottom until the flames die. Add the cream, bring it to medium heat whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Adjust the salt, then bring the steaks back to the pan, coating them with the sauce.


Serve immediately with rice and potatoes. Enjoy!


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