Pepper-Crusted Rib Steak

In Ducasse’s wonderful book written with Linda Dannenberg, The Flavors of France, this dish was given the grand title of Piece de Boeuf de Chalosse Poêle en Croute de Poivre, Grosses Frites a la Graise d’Oie, et Salade Croquante de Coeurs de Laitue. To us, it’s “steak au poivre.” What caught my eye were the potatoes—fat French fries cooked in goose fat—the most sublime way to cook them, if not using rendered beef suet the way the English used to do. Try them once, and if unconvinced, switch to olive oil.

The salade croquante, or “crisp salad,” refers to one made from hearts of romaine, torn and dressed with a simple vinaigrette: 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper.

When I cooked with Alain in New York, he used different kinds of peppercorns, and his steak au poivre was the best I have ever tasted. I’ve pared it down to two.

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Ingredients

  • ¼ cup black peppercorns
  • ¼ cup Szechuan peppercorns
  • 2-pound rib steak on the bone, trimmed of excess fat, trimmings reserved
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup Cognac
  • 2 cups Beef Jus
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • teaspoons Dijon mustard

Method

Put the peppercorns on a baking sheet and crush them with the back of a saucepan. Sieve and reserve both the coarse pieces and the dust separately. Rub the steak with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, then dredge on both sides in the coarse pieces of pepper. Press the pepper into the beef.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Salt the beef and put the steak in the pan; scatter the cloves of garlic around it. Brown the steak on each side for 2 minutes. Add another 1 tablespoon butter and the reserved beef trimmings and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, basting the steak often with the pan juices, until medium-rare, or 5 to 7 minutes on each side. Transfer the steak to a wire rack set over a plate, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes in a warm place.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: Discard the garlic cloves in the skillet and drain off all but 2 tablespoons fat. Add the shallots and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the Cognac, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan; simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the beef jus and simmer until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 5 minutes.

Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and return to the pan over medium-low heat. Gradually whisk in the mustard and 2 teaspoons butter cut into small pieces. Season the sauce and thin, if necessary, with more cream.

Slice the steak and serve with some of the sauce poured over it. Pass the remaining sauce in a hot sauceboat on the side.

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