Foodstyle Review Magazine


Steak classic – au poivre

Pepper steak is one of those old French classics that has fallen out of sight; well, at least since the American patron saint of French cooking, Julia Child, left us.

This peppery recipe appeared in France about 100 years ago and grew in popularity. A number of French chefs have claimed its invention in the past and, while none have been credited, it is agreed – that it was designed for foreigners, namely Yanks and Brits, who drank a lot before dining at the time. The heat of the pepper shocked their palates out of an alcoholic stupor.

The purist version is beef steak coated in crushed (not ground) black peppercorns - around a teaspoon for every steak. The steak is then pan-fried, removed and set aside to rest while a quick, red-wine de-glazing and reduction sauce is made in the same pan to serve on top.

At some stage, a long time ago last century, French chefs added cream to cut down the bite of the peppers, and then a little brandy – as you do. One indulgence leads to another.

Over the decades the ‘cream’ recipe version came under fire. Julia Child and Jacque Pepin reportedly became so involved in this dispute that they issued a ‘joint’ recipe for Steak au Poivre in 1999 that featured beef stock, bourdon and butter (but no cream).

A point to make here – this originated as a restaurant recipe. With a brigade of cooks in your kitchen you can afford to cook this steak to order in individual fry-pans (the over-worked dishwasher cleaned them, anyway).

It is far easier to make a pepper cream/cognac sauce in advance and have more control over its flavour and consistency. There is nothing wrong with the stock, cream and cognac version if made well - it sure tastes good!

This steak recipe is invariably served with some sort of spuds and a salad, so please go to the contents (right hand top) of the home page and find the delicious gratin potatoes from our spring 2009 issue (remember to pre-cook your spuds).

The steak
We have used 350g packet of Silver Fern Farms aged Beef Porterhouse Steaks. There are two in a packet and ready to rock and roll. Use a thick-based frying pan placed over a high heat, sear the heck out of them, lower the heat and don’t cook past medium rare (timing is on the packet). The steak should be ‘crusty’. Use tongs to pick it up and sear the sides and ends.

But first make your sauce.

Try and make this in advance as the longer it sits the more the peppers will infuse into the sauce.

Roux - 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp flour
125 (half a cup ) of beef or vegetable stock
1 tbsp of whole black peppercorns crushed
2 tbsp of green peppercorns
125ml (half cup) of runny cream
100ml (or more) brandy or cognac

This sauce is thickened by a roux – a mixture of equal amounts of butter and flour. For two steaks – a tbsp of flour and a tbsp of butter will do it. Cook this roux mixture in a saucepan but don’t let it brown. 

Add half a cup of stock, and cook a little longer. Add brandy/cognac and then a cup (250ml) of runny cream. Then add 2 tbsp of green peppers and one tbsp of crushed black pepper. Dilute sauce with more stock if too thick.

Pour over cooked steak liberally. Potatoes and salad are mandatory.

Autumn 2015

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