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Steak au Poivre

A person drizzling sauce over a steak au poivre on a white plate with sweet potato fries.
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.
Julia Child and Jacques Pépin

Prep 15 mins
Cook 10 mins
Total 25 mins
Entrees
French
2 servings
700 kcal

Ingredients 

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)
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) unsalted butter

For the pan sauce

  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons Cognac (or bourbon or red wine)
  • 1/2 cup beef stock or dark chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature

For the garnish

  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
  • Watercress (optional)

Directions 

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.
    A seared steak au poivre.
  • 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.

Notes

*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.