steak_au_poivre_1(Chicago) – Do I need to describe how bad the economy is now? It’s all over the news and it’s scaring the s**t out of everyone especially if you have a mortgage to pay. I have a few friends who got laid off from work, some friends’ vacation days got slashed and my salary increase for this year got canned. We are all affected by this economic downturn in one way or another.

With the economy not doing well this year, it is very difficult to throw some hard-earned dollars on a really fancy dinner. Food is my lover and I don’t care spending the fruits of my labor for a great meal at any cost. Perhaps, this is the biggest impact to me and I was pretty emotional thinking about cutting down on my only vice.  As painful as it is to accept these realities, I’m moving on with a smarter and thriftier head on my shoulder.  Why not create a restaurant-style dinner plate from my very own kitchen for less than $10?

I’m up for the challenge and I will make a pretty, juicy steak, French-style, for a few bucks. So I went to my favorite meat store, Peoria Butcher shop, by West Loop in Chicago and bought 2 beautiful slices of rib eye for only $6. I checked my liquor cabinet at home and there lies a half-filled bottle of Cognac brought by a friend from a past party. Rummaging my pantry further, I found my stock of whole peppercorn that is waiting patiently to be used until I crave for Adobo again.  Voila! All set for my Steak Au Poivre (Pepper Steak).

This was my first attempt and it surely was an exciting experience. Also, it was my first time to create a flambé which caused my friend to panic and forgot to take pictures of the flame at its peak. At least, he captured one, shown below, before the flames died. Well, I was frightened too but thrilled at the same time. I strongly felt the adrenaline rush as the pan set afire. I’d be more careful next time, though.  My head was a little too close over the pan and a few strands of my bangs got burned. I was laughing hard at myself!

It did not take long to finish the dish. The rib eye looked and tasted like those steaks I had in some restaurants and the sauce was ambrosia. I can’t even believe that I made this.  There are rooms for improvement for sure but nonetheless, my friend and I were equally satisfied with my adaptation of Alton Brown’s Steak au Poivre as with a $40 steak dinner in Chicago Chophouse on a Saturday night.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Rib eye Steak – around 12 ounces and 1.5 inches thick each
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoon whole peppercorn
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup Cognac + 1 teaspoon
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. Bring the steak to room temperature before cooking.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 450F
  3. Season both sides of rib eye with salt
  4. Put the peppercorn is a small sandwich bag and coarsely crush using the bottom of a heavy pan.  It is easier if you use mortar and pestle.
  5. Spread the peppercorns evenly onto a plate.
  6. Coat both sides of the steaks with pepper by pressing into it
  7. Melt the butter and olive oil in an oven-proof pan over medium heat
  8. Sear each side of the fillets for 1 minute and then put your pan into the oven for 5 minutes (medium-rare). Add a few more minutes depending on how you like your steak done.
  9. Remove the steaks to a plate, cover with foil and let it rest for 5 minutes
  10. Pour off the excess fat from the pan but do not scrape it clean
  11. With pan away from the heat, add 1/3 cup Cognac to the pan and carefully ignite the alcohol with a long match or firestick. Shake the pan gently until the flames die
  12. Return the pan to medium heat and add the cream
  13. Bring the mixture to a boil and whisk until it thickens. Dip a spoon into the sauce and if it coats the back of the spoon, then it is thick enough.
  14. Add the remaining teaspoon of Cognac and season with a pinch of salt
  15. Spoon the sauce over the steak or serve them separately.

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