3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2 6-ounce steaks (we use top sirloin filet in class, but almost any tender cut will work: strip sirloin, filet, shoulder tender, etc.)
1 medium shallot, minced
1/3 cup Cognac or brandy
3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme (substitute fresh rosemary if you like, or leave the herbs out altogether)
1 cup double-strength beef stock (in class, we use More Than Gourmet Brown Stock, a package reconstituted in 3/4 cup water)
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
Steak au poivre
Salt the steaks generously and set aside.
Using a spice grinder or a peppermill with a very coarse setting, grind the peppercorns and place on a flat plate or small sheet pan. You want the effect of crushed pepper, rather than fine grains. If a few peppercorns end up almost whole, that’s okay.
Flatten the steaks with your hand to about 3/4-inch thick.
Optional step, if you’re not using the most tender of meat (skip if you’re using a filet or strip steak): using a jaccard tool or a tenderizing mallet, give the steaks a once-over to further tenderize the steak.
Dredge both sides of the steaks in the crushed pepper. Film the bottom of a sauté pan with oil and set it over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, lay the steaks in the pan. Cook for four minutes on each side for medium-rare. Set the steaks on a warm plate and cover loosely.
Add the shallots to the pan and toss them around with a spatula or wooden spoon until the pieces separate, become a little tender and start to brown.
Off the heat, add the cognac to the pan. Carefully set the cognac on fire, and return to the heat. Add the herbs and swirl to coat with the liquor. By then, the cognac should have reduced by half.
Add the beef stock and simmer until reduced again by half.
Add the cream and stir to combine. Simmer until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. If you drag your finger through the sauce on the spoon, it should hold a clear stripe.
Remove from the heat. When the sauce stops bubbling, wait one minute, then swirl in the butter.
Slice the steaks into 1/3-inch slices. Pour some sauce on a plate and lay the steak in it. Serve the rest of the sauce on the side.