This steak au poivre from Julia Child is a French classic made with steak encrusted with black, green, white peppercorns, and allspice and drizzled with a Cognac pan sauce.
Steak au poivre is a classic preparation for sauteed steak. It can be very good when it is not so buried in pepper and doused with flaming brandy that the flavor of the meat is utterly disguised. And the alcohol taste, as it is not boiled off completely, remains in the brandy, spoiling the taste of the meat. [Editor’s Note: The only thing that could possibly improve upon this steak is proper French fries.]–Julia Child and Jacques Pépin
Steak au Poivre
For the steak
- One (1-pound) thick-cut, well-marbled strip steak*, about 1 inch (2 1/2 cm) thick
- 2 tablespoons mixed whole peppercorns including black, white, green, Szechuan and Jamaican (whole allspice)
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) unsalted butter
For the pan sauce
For the garnish
- Chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
- Watercress (optional)
Sear the steak
- Trim the steak of any excess fat. Cut the meat into 2 pieces. Crush the peppercorns using a spice grinder, mortar and pestle, or the bottom of a heavy skillet.
- Sprinkle salt to taste on the top and bottom of the steaks, then press each side of each steak into the cracked peppercorns, encrusting the steaks as lightly or heavily, as you prefer. Heat the oil and the butter in a large, heavy saute pan or skillet over high heat. When the pan is quite hot but not smoking, add the peppered steaks. Cook, without nudging or fussing with the steak, for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until the undersides are well seared.
- Turn the meat and cook until the steak is done to almost the desired doneness, about 1 1/2 minutes more for medium-rare, depending on the thickness of your steak.
- Leave the steak to rest on a warm platter for at least 10 minutes.
Make the pan sauce
- A few minutes before you intend to eat, return the pan with the drippings to medium heat. Add the shallots and saute briefly, stirring with a spoon to scrape the bottom of the skillet.
- Lean away from the stove (averting your face) and carefully pour the Cognac into the pan, holding the measuring cup close to the stove to avoid splashing. If desired, tilt the edge of the pan slightly over the burner flame or use a match to ignite the alcohol. Immediately turn the heat down. The Cognac will flame for a few seconds as the alcohol burns off. When the flames die down, cook for a few moments more and then add the stock. Bring the liquid back to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, 2 to 5 minutes.
- Taste the pan sauce and adjust the seasoning as desired. Add the soft butter, tilting the pan rather than stirring the sauce, until the butter melts and is incorporated with the pan juices.
- Pour the poivre sauce over the steaks. Sprinkle liberally with chopped parsley, if desired, and garnish with sprigs of watercress.
*What is a strip steak?Strip steak is a tender, well-marbled cut of meat from the short loin of a cow. You'll also sometimes see it labeled as the Kansas City or New York strip. The strip is both exquisitely flavored and also relatively tender, seeing as it falls on the opposite side of the bone as the tenderloin, though it's not nearly as buttery as the tenderloin. All this cut of meat needs is some high heat and simple seasoning to turn it into something with a terrific flavor that rivals a restaurant steak.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
I love steak au poivre. Love. It. There's a French restaurant in town that my husband and I like to go to and I always tell myself that this time I'm getting something different than the steak au poivre dinner that they serve with fantastic potatoes and broccoli rabe. I rarely get something different. So, when this recipe popped up I was pumped to bring one of my favorite meals to the house.
It was a bit of a chaotic meal and not near as relaxing as going out to fancy date night dinner (quickly eating steak while your toddler is walking in circles around the table trying to get the dog to drink from her milk cup isn't exactly what I was hoping for) but this recipe is pretty classic and serves up that rich umami flavor that is so loved in this recipe. We roasted up some baby potatoes and I steamed (okay, I popped it in the microwave) some sugar snap peas for a quick side. Fully recommend this meal whether for a nice date night in or a fancy dinner while chaos ensues around you.
The steak thickness was 1 inch. I used 2 New York strips. I seared both of my steaks for 2 1/2 minutes on each side to achieve that really rich crust that I was looking for on the steak. We cooked both our steaks to medium. Total cooking time on high heat was 5 minutes.
This made 2 servings for us. GOOD servings. I think depending on what your dinner plans are, you could easily stretch it to 3 and just boost the sides.
This steak was outstanding. Cooking it, I felt like a real French chef. I even flamed the sauce for a real show! I never would have thought that a recipe like this would be a quick, easy weeknight dinner, but this absolutely was and surpassed my expectations.
The list of ingredients is so simple that you likely have them in your pantry, and it all comes together in a flash. I coated them in black and pink peppercorns—I highly recommend this combo. My steaks were 1 inch thick and I seared them for 2 minutes per side for a medium-rare steak. They turned out so tender and the sauce was delicious. I served this with a side of arugula and roasted potatoes. My belly is so happy.
I used Armagnac in place of Cognac (my husband told me it's the same thing but not as expensive as the premium cognac he nearly caught me using).
I seared the steaks for 2 minutes on each side and then also gave the fat cap on the side a quick sear. Mine were cooked to medium-rare. I did ignite the alcohol—what a show. May be good to instruct cooks to turn the heat down after it ignites.
Originally published December 12, 2009