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Saturday, April 12, 2008

steak au poivre with brandied cream sauce

steak and asparagus

I know I'm not the only one who's obsessed with Cook's Illustrated's "The New Best Recipe" cookbook -- 1000 pages of the most helpful cooking guidelines ever published. Just like their magazine, they walk you through *why* certain ingredients or techniques are the best option. It's an educational recipe encyclopedia, if you will. The hardest part is trying to pick just one thing to cook when you start flipping through the pages... Last night I decided to try out their recipe for steak au poivre with brandied cream sauce, and it did not disappoint. It went very well with the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus below. I had to modify this since WF was out of strip steak (they suggested that I try flank steak -- it actually worked well since the sauce and the quick cooking method both contributed to softening up the meat).

Grocery list: 4 8-ounce strip steaks, 1/2 stick butter, 1 shallot, beef stock, chicken stock, brandy, cream, 1 tsp lemon juice, whole black peppercorns.

peppering the steak

Start by crushing 1 T of peppercorns -- use a rolling pin and a large ziploc bag. Don't grind the pepper in a mill, or it will be too fine. Salt both sides of the steak, then coat one side with the peppercorns (rub the pepper into the grain as much as you can). Set aside and work on the sauce.

au poivre sauce

Melt 1 T of butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat, and saute the minced shallot for 2 minutes. Add 1 c beef stock and 3/4 c chicken stock; increase the heat to high and boil for 8 minutes until it has reduced to about 1/2 c total. Pour into a bowl, wipe out the pan, and return to medium-high flame.

pressing the steak

Add the steak, peppered side up first, and press the bottom of a cake pan onto the tops of the steaks. Cook for 6 minutes, lift up the cake pan and flip the steaks carefully with tongs so the peppered side is down. Return the cake pan and press against the steak firmly. Cook for another 5-6 minutes for medium. Remove to a plate and tent with foil.

In the same pan, return the shallot-broth sauce, and add 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half, plus 1/4 cup brandy. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits of meat and pepper from the bottom. Simmer for about 5 minutes then remove from heat. Whisk in 3 T of butter, one at a time, to thicken the sauce. Add 1 tsp of lemon juice and another T of brandy. Pour the sauce over the steak to serve.

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