Steak is such a classic French bistro dish that it gets a whole chapter in Ann Mah’s book, Mastering the Art of French Eating. But it’s also surprisingly easy to cook at home.
Contrary to most Americans’ perspectives of steak being a special, “fancy” dish, I almost always prefer to have steak for my easy weeknight meals since it’s so much more affordable and literally takes minutes to prepare. It also pairs down easily for just one or two people.
Here’s a simple walk-through of my favorite way to prepare steak and an optional au poivre (OH PWAVE – with pepper) sauce to go with it. Because it’s kind of ridiculously good and you can impress all your friends by talking about “deglazing the pan with cognac.”
Olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme. Coat the steak in all of this.
“Ideally” this sits for at least 3 hours, which means you can prepare it overnight or just say “screw it” and do it a few minutes before (still works – Julia Child will not rise from the grave to shank you).
Cooking the Steak:
Cast Iron Pan (I like my Le Creuset variety as I’ve mentioned, but you can use any oven-safe pan.*)
Clarified butter (Use clarified butter so you can punch the heat up without burning the butter. You can buy it at a Supermarket or make some easily at home)
1. Turn on your broiler or heat your oven up to hotter-than-hell. Warm up your pan in there while it heats up.
2. Meanwhile, turn your burner on to scorching. As high as the nob will go. The hotter your pan, the nicer your sear.
3. When your oven/ broiler reaches temp, transfer your pan onto the scorching burner and drop a dollop of clarified butter on the pan. WARNING: do not try this with regular butter or it will burn. Roll the pan around until the butter fully coats the bottom, forming a layer between the pan and where your steak will be.
4. With tongs, drop in your steak. Marvel at that searing sound! Ooooh.
Protips: 1. Make sure your steaks aren’t touching if you cook more than one in the same pan. 2. Press down gently on the steak with your hand, making sure it’s comfortably resting flat against the pan. 3. Be patient, let the butter do its thang.
5. Wait until the steak has a good enough sear that jiggling the pan slightly back and forth will move the steak around. I think this is about 1 – 1.5 minutes on your first side.
6. Flip your steak, adding more clarified butter if your layer has disappeared. Your second side cooks much faster. Maybe 30 – 45 seconds.
7. Transfer the whole pan to the oven/ broiler for 2 minutes. Flip steaks, return for another two minutes.
8. Let steaks rest while you prepare a sauce or pour yourself a glass of wine.
This cooks your steaks to about a medium temp (for a 6 – 8 oz piece of meat). Adjust timing to your desired temp and meat size/ thickness.
*in a super pinch, you can sear your steak in a regular pan and transfer to a baking sheet for baking, but you will miss a lot of the great searing action you get from cast iron.
Au Poivre Sauce:
Green peppercorns, rinsed (see picture if you’re like, “what the hell are green peppercorns?!”)
Veal or beef stock (get the real stuff, in the refrigerated section)
1. Wipe your steak pan down a bit (not COMPLETELY) with a clean, but old rag.
2. With medium to high heat, pour in a nice amount of cognac. Enough to coat the pan with a liquid layer. If you have a gas burner, tilt your pan to set it on fire (and watch your eyebrows). If you’re running electric, take out a long grill lighter and say a few prayers.
3. After the cognac fire subsides, congratulate yourself on “deglazing a pan” and toss in a small handful of peppercorns, golden raisins, and about a cup of beef stock.
Fun tip: stock is a great way to add a “fatty” flavor to your sauces without adding any additional fat! Those French girls are good with their delicious healthy tricks!
4. Reduce the liquid to about two thirds of what you started with. Add in the heavy cream and cook that down, too. Whisk if necessary.
5. Remove your pan from the heat and add a dollop of crème fraîche and a dollop of mustard. Mix it all together until it looks like the photo.
6. Salt to taste and pour over the steak.
Voila! Easy one-pan steak au poivre in 10 minutes.