Monday, January 25, 2010

Steak au Poivre

Usually, I grill steaks; but in the dead of winter, this recipe comes in handy. The method is called sear-roasting: you sear the meat on the stovetop, locking in the juices, then roast it in a hot oven. Although the steak tastes great on its won, I like to add an easy pan sauce.

(serves two parents and two children)

2 T-bone steaks (about a pound each)
2 Tbs black peppercorns
kosher salt
olive oil
1 cup red wine
3 Tbs unsalted butter

1. Preheat the over to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Wash the steaks, then pat them dry with paper towels.

3. Use a mortar and pestle (or the side of a heavy knife) to crush the peppercorns.

2. Season both sides of the steaks with the crushed pepper and salt, pressing the seasonings into the meat.

3. Heat a cast-iron skillet large enough to hold both steaks over a high flame. Add a thin film of olive oil.

4. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the steaks and sear for three minutes. Flip the steaks and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast until done, about ten minutes for medium rare.

5. Transfer the steaks to a platter and tent with aluminum foil to keep them warm while you make the sauce.

6. After pouring off the accumulated fat, place the skillet over a medium-high flame. Add the wine and deglaze, using a whisk to loosen the browned bits stuck to the skillet’s bottom. Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally, until the wine is reduced by three-quarters, about 6 minutes.

7. Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. As it melts, whisk it into the sauce. When all of the butter has melted, the sauce is done. Serve drizzled over the steaks.

• Whenever you cook with wine, use a decent bottle. My rule is, if I wouldn’t drink a wine with dinner, I won’t cook with it, either. There are plenty of decent four- and five-dollar Cabernets to choose from. My favorite is Crane Lake.

• If you lack the hand strength to crush peppercorns, you can always put them in a small plastic freezer bag and crush them with a hammer.

• I test the doneness of meat by pressing it with my fingers. Undercooked meat feels flaccid, while cooked meat feels firm to the touch. Telling the difference takes a little practice, but learning how is worth the effort because cutting into meat while it cooks releases juices, drying the meat out. I suggest probing the steaks every few minutes as they cook so that you can gauge the differences in feel.

• Remember that cast iron stays very hot long after you remove it from the oven. Keep a mitt on the handle at all times while making the sauce.

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