January 22, 2010

French Friday: Steak au Poivre


Long before French Women Don’t Get Fat hit the shelves, I was just a girl who wanted to eat cheese for dinner and rationalize it. I blabbed to anyone who would listen that I was going to start “eating like a French woman.” When asked what this would entail, I mentioned the cheese, as well as creamy things, baguettes, and, you know, French stuff. It should be noted, however, that this being before my introductions to Julia Child and MFK Fisher, I did not, in fact, have much knowledge of what a French woman would actually eat. My only reference point was the week of oysters, champagne, and fois gras my sister and I had in France the year before. This would not be unlike someone coming to our United States and deducing that Americans solely eat burritos the size of their heads, Dunkin Donuts breakfast sandwiches and fountain cokes served in 64 ounces buckets. Nevertheless, this was my plan.

As I recall, this new way of eating lasted approximately one twenty-four hour period, its apex being a dinner on the porch of my apartment with a dark-haired beauty. We ate an astonishing amount of brie and bread, followed by a steak au poivre chased with a bottle or two of red wine. There may have been a couple of lettuce leaves thrown in for good measure. Then we walked to a dive bar, drank 10,000 gin and tonics and flirted with aging cowboys and taciturn hipsters. I hadn’t quite worked out the finer points of this French thing. I think I just wanted to wear stripes, and as I mentioned, eat cheese.


Since this experiment I have learned that the French know a thing or two about portion size, quality over quantity, and flirting (namely, apparently, that they don’t do it; who knew?). But if this red blooded American girl knows anything it’s a good steak when she sees one. Thus, there is one lasting relic from this dining experience. The steak au poivre stays in the picture.

I know it seems like overkill to serve steak with a cream sauce, and this argument — in the ways of saturated fat and cholesterol levels — may have some merit. But you’re talking to a woman who likes to put blue cheese on chops. The point here is that the peppercorn crust imparts such a level of heat that the cream and brandy sauce tempers it quite nicely. I’m not saying this is what you want to eat when you get home from bikram, but over low light and glasses of rough red wine with someone you’re hoping to kiss at the end of the night, it might be just the thing.


Steak au Poivre
adapted from French: Delicious, Classic Cuisine Made Easy
Serves 2

2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 fillet mignons or sirloin steaks
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons brandy
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Place the peppercorns in a sturdy plastic bag. Crush with a rolling pin until medium coarse or, using the flat base of a small heavy saucepan, press down on the peppercorns rocking the pan to crush them. Put the steaks on a board and trim away an excess fat. Press the pepper onto both sides of the meat, coating it completely.

Melt the butter and oil in a heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook 3 minutes per side for medium rare. Transfer the steaks to a warmed plate and cover to keep warm.

Pour in the brandy to deglaze the pan. Allow to bubble away until reduced by half, scraping the base of the pan. Reduce heat to medium. Add cream and garlic. Simmer gently for about 4 minutes until the cream has reduced by one-third. Stir any accumulated juices from the meat into the sauce, taste and add salt, if necessary, then serve steaks topped with sauce.

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  • Christine S.: After the cholesterol report I just received this week, you have me salivating for that meal! It will be awhile before I can have it, though. For now, me and Mirielle will be sticking together!:)

    How lovely, though! It would make for the setting for a perfect Valentine’s meal!:)5 years ago

  • Christine, It wouldn’t hurt if Mireille and I got reacquainted either (!), but this was our New Year’s Eve dinner and it went over quite well. Not the kind of thing you can have everyday, but for a special occasion it’s tops. Have you looked at her website? It’s fun for inspiration now and then (but it’s not updated very much).5 years ago

  • Karen: That recipe makes my mouth water! A good steak is required every now and then.

    I read French Women Don’t Get Fat a few years ago. It may be time to read it again. I need some inspiration to jump start my diet again. I just mentioned to my dear husband that I am still eating like it is the holidays…. but it is a month later…. party time is over!5 years ago

  • Lucy: Ooooh. And the potatoes look good too. Mm. Thanks. But not too many potatoes. Otherwise he’ll fall asleep. But oh those potatoes look good. Did I say Mm? Short for miam.5 years ago

  • Karen, I totally agree about a good steak! I think French Women Don’t Get Fat is a great book if only for the way it inspires you to enjoy your food — the shopping for it, the eating it, the menu-planning, etc — and to live a life of balance. I’m always striving for that b word!

    Lucy, Those potatoes were good. I followed a recipe from the same cookbook to simmer them in milk until soft and then bake them in a gratin dish with the same milk poured over them. Deeelish…serve an affogato afterwards and there will be no sleeping!5 years ago

  • WriteGal: I made this just last week! Paired it with brussel’s sprouts roasted with bacon and pine nuts.

    Yummy and it would be perfect for Valentine’s day… :)5 years ago

  • Maria Stuart: perfect5 years ago

  • Katie: I live and die for steak au poivre! This recipie looks delicious. When I make it, trying (really trying!) to be more figure concious , I opt to not use the cream and just reduce the brandy and add garlic. It’s not *quite* traditional, but it’s very good!5 years ago

  • Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday: This post really made me crave some mouthwatering beef! I went home immediately to make a Boeuf en Croute with a side of Brussels sprouts for my husband’s birthday!5 years ago

  • Brussels sprouts & bacon, and beef en croute? Yum.5 years ago

  • Stephanie: Ohhh. Wonderful post. I went to high school in France, and after Friday classes my group of friends would hit a local cafe and order steak frites with kir royales. They were pretty cheap in the days of francs and we still had the metabolisms of angsty teens. The pink juiciness of the beef, salt of the frites, and bubbles of kir were perfect together … The acme of a mischievous yet soothing cafe session :)5 years ago

  • Karen: This steak was incredible! I spent a small fortune buying filet mignon to prepare for my husband for Valentine’s. He said it was so good, he almost cried :-).

    Thank you!5 years ago

  • Now that’s what I call a Valentine’s day home run!5 years ago

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A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.
- Henry David Thoreau