When we have our wine party every year, I try to do a variety of food for the party. Sometimes, I make whatever I want, but I’m trying to get better at following the theme of the wines. I select the wine theme in advance so guests can get wines that fit. We’ve done American wines that aren’t from California, southern hemisphere wines that aren’t from Australia, and anything goes.
This year’s theme was French wines, if you haven’t read anything else I’ve written about the party. Each couple was asked to bring two French wines, one red and one white. They were also asked to look up something about the wine to share, whether it’s about the vineyard, the grape, that particular wine, the appellation, whatever. (Appellations are distinct areas were grapes for wines are grown). It wasn’t anything too difficult, and Vince helped some by looking up their wines on his iPhone connected to our household wireless!
I talked about the foie gras I made for the party yesterday. Today, it’s grilled steak au poivre.
I’ve made steak au poivre in the past. It’s basically steak with a pepper-cream sauce, and it’s fun because I get to play with fire. Traditionally, though, it’s a dish made in a skillet on the stovetop. I wanted to mix it up a bit, though, and push it outside onto the grill. I thought the addition of wood-grilled steak would be a benefit.
There’s one problem with this approach… The fond! Fond is the stuff left in the pan after pan-frying, and grilling a steak means no stuff in a pan. What to do, what to do? I realized that, for the sauce, beef is beef, so I got a couple strips of cubed round steak and used that in the pan. It worked great!
So here’s the whole process:
Starting with half of a tenderloin, I trimmed the fat and, in particular, the silverskin off the beef. The silverskin won’t break down, so it would make eating the steak not that great. Then I cut the steaks into about 1 1/2 inch filets. I added the cubed steak to a platter with the filets and seasoned with crushed black pepper and grey salt. And when I say crushed, I mean crushed. I took a flat meat tenderizer and bashed the snot out of the peppercorns (in a ziplock bag). I hit those things as hard as I could, and I still got a few whole peppercorns. As it turns out, that works out fine.
When seasoning steaks, one of the major mistakes a lot of home cooks make is to not use enough seasoning. I pretty much coated these with peppercorns and salt on both sides.
The grill was already going, with an all-wood fire. I put a skillet on the fire to get it hot, then I added the cubed steak. Unfortunately, this was when I got busy, so no photos of the cubed steak in the skillet. However, once the steak was done, it was time to make the ‘au poivre’ part of the steaks. The ingredients for the amount of steak I was doing (about 4 1/2 pounds) are:
- 2/3 cup cognac (using fairly cheap cognac)
- 2 cups cream
- a bit extra cognac to add later for flavor
- 1 lighter to light the 2/3 cup of cognac
In the skillet now empty except for the fond from the cubed steak, the cognac was added. I took the lighter and applied flame to the cognac, resulting in:
The flames take a while to calm down with that amount of alcohol, but, being outside, there was no ceiling to catch on fire. Actually, if doing this inside, make sure there’s a handy fire extinguisher (and turn off the stove prior to lighting the cognac). When the flames did die down, I deglazed the skillet and added the 2 cups of cream. I set aside the sauce to the cooler part of the grill and then grilled the steaks.
I grilled the steaks about 4-5 minutes per side, took them off the grill to rest for 5 minutes. The steaks were sliced so they’d be easier to share among the guests. Then the steaks were added to the ‘au poivre’ sauce.
Something about the grill added a taste that can’t be matched in a skillet. I keep wanting to try regular dishes on the grill or smoker, and this just proves more that it’s possible and really great.