This cut of beef is also known, rather less poetically, as the rump cap. It is a tender cut from the rear of the animal with a lovely cap of fat to provide flavour and keep the meat succulent as it cooks. Bought in a large pieces rather than pre-cut steaks, it is spiral cut which means the fibres run diagonally through the meat, allowing it to stay tender when charcoal grilled.
The whiskey in the sauce enhances the smoky flavours if you are able to cook the meat on the barbecue, and will give a hint of them if the weather keeps you indoors and cooking on the stove. I use an Irish whiskey like Bushmills because we Northern Irish have the oldest whiskey distillery in the world and, thus, the finest in my mind. You could use your tipple of choice.
You’ll have to buy the picanha in one piece, so ask the butcher to cut it into four or six steaks as needed. Keep them thick for the best finish. Absorb as much moisture from them as you can using kitchen towels and bring them to room temperature before you start cooking. The steaks are best grilled.
Salt the meat with about a tablespoon of sea salt. Traditionally, it is not seasoned with black pepper – just enough salt to help crisp the fat and bring out of the flavour of the meat to perfect effect. Heat a griddle pan or grill well or get your barbecue ready for use. Once the coals are white you are ready to cook.
Lay the meat fat side down and cook for 5 minutes each side for rare, 7 minutes each side for medium and 9 minutes for well done – plus an extra minute on its side to crisp any fat you have missed. Juices should be rising to the surface of the meat. Take the steaks off the heat and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes – the spiral cut of the meat makes it seem too tough to cut if you don’t leave it to rest. You want the juices to keep coming out and the salt to mingle with them.
While the meat is resting, deglaze the griddle pan with the beef stock to lift all the caramelised bits from cooking. Set aside. Melt the butter in a pan and sauté the mushrooms until they soften. Stir in the mustard, then the whiskey and cook out for a minute while the whiskey bubbles: this will remove any raw alcohol flavour and mellow it down. Add the double cream and the beef stock you deglazed the pan with earlier. Stir in the black peppercorns. Simmer the sauce for 1–2 minutes over a low heat.
Slice each rested steak into four thick pieces and serve with the whiskey sauce. Some silky soft beans work well here, as do fried plantain or potatoes. A salad finishes it all off in style.
Try not to fight over who gets the tip of the picanha. It is some of the finest steak you will ever eat. See if you can get it as cook’s perk.
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