An all-time classic in which pepper plays a key part. I have used an equal amount of white and black peppercorns – white for bite and black for flavour – but you could experiment with halving the white and adding green or pink, or use black on their own. Sieving after cracking is essential for ridding the crunchy coating of peppery dust.
Put the steaks in a shallow dish in which they will fit in a single layer. Pour over the tablespoon of olive oil and rub this all over the meat. Coat on both sides with the peppercorns, pressing them firmly into the meat. Cover and leave at room temperature for at least an hour, turning the steaks once.
When you’re ready to cook, brush a heavy-based frying pan with a film of oil and place over very high heat. Crumble some sea salt flakes over the steaks and quickly slip them into the pan. Sear them on each side for about 1 minute, then reduce the heat slightly and carry on cooking for another 1–2 minutes depending on how you like your steaks.
For a retro experience, cook the steaks, using green peppercorns instead of black and white, and adding a generous knob of butter after the steaks have sizzled on each side. Allow the butter to foam and brown slightly, then remove the steaks to a warm plate. Remove excess fat from the pan then deglaze over high heat with a generous splash of cognac. Set light to the cognac then swirl in the best part of a small pot of cream and any juices from the steaks. Bring to the boil, bubble down until thickened, then pour over the steaks.
Those of a certain age might remember the Peter Evans Eating Houses in London where the treat of the week would invariably include prawn cocktail, steak au poivre with cream sauce, followed by Black Forest gâteau.
© 2008 Christine McFadden. All rights reserved.