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Steak au Poivre (Pepper Steak)
Ingredients (for 1)

1 New York strip steak
1 Tbs whole black peppercorns
4 Tbs (40 g) unsalted butter
1 shallot
3 Tbs (45 ml) Cognac
4 Tbs (60 ml) demi-glace de viande (or substitute red wine, broth or water)
1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

For French style, buy a steak about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick, for
American style, buy a steak about 1.5 inch (3.2 cm) thick. The
quality of the dish is determined by the quality of the meat. Well
aged USDA choice or prime is great if you can get it.

Unwrap your steak and let it sit on the counter for an hour or so
before you start. It will cook more evenly if it is at room
temperature when you start cooking.

Place the whole peppercorns on a chopping block and very coarsely
crush them with the bottom of a pan or the side of a large chef's
knife. Take your (now room temperature) steak, and pat the peppercorns
into the meat on both sides. The meat should be heavily coated with
very coarsely crushed peppercorns, but the meat should still be
visible between the peppercorns.

Chop the shallots and set them aside. Chop the parsley and set it

Heat 1/2 of the butter in a heavy skillet (I find heavy aluminum
works best, it is easier to regulate the temperature than with
iron) until it stops foaming and is very hot (but not burned). Put
the steak in the skillet and salt the top to taste. Saute the steak
on the first side (5 mins. for a 1" thick steak, 7.5 mins. for a
1.5 inch thick steak). Turn it over, salt the other side, and
continue sauteeing for the same amount of time as you cooked the
first side. For a medium rare steak, total cooking time is usually
10 minutes per inch of thickness. Other ways to tell when it's done
include: (1) flip the steak as soon as blood rises to the surface
on a side, and (2) calibrate your finger by poking a steak you like
some day and remembering the feel.

Remove the steak and put it on a plate. Allowing the steak to "rest"
while you finish the dish will result in a more uniformly cooked
interior. Turn the heat way down, pour off most of the butter, and
add the shallots. Saute them for a minute or two. Add the Cognac.
to avoid a 6 ft. (2 m) pillar of flame, allow most of the alcohol
to evaporate and then touch the side of the pan to the flame to
ignite the remaining alcohol. For a truly spectacular pillar of
flame, add the Cognac to the hot pan and immediately ignite the
vaporized fuel (stand back when you do this!).

Add the demi-glace and reduce it to a thick glaze. Finish the sauce
by swirling in the remaining butter. Pur the sauce over the steak,
and finish with parsley.

Serve lots of good bread to soak up the sauce. This goes very well
with a red wine. Good garnishes include sauteed potatoes, carrots
and wild mushrooms.


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