Technique #172 Pepper Steak (Au Poivre)

Pepper Steak, Steak Au Poivre, or Technique #172. Anyway you describe it it taste delicious. How did I come up with calling it technique #172 you ask? Its actually from Jacque Pepin's book "Complete Techniques". Hands down it is one of the best books out there for aspiring cooks. It is so full of broken down step by step techniques.

I love to buy cookbooks. Especially books that focus on technique over pure recipes. I'm always stunned when I get distracted by other books why I ever left Jacque (or at least Jacque's book). His book is so complete, so well written, so explanatory. Truly a tome of tomes.

The recipe is simple enough. Take some fresh peppercorns and crack them all open. I'm not sure it matters a lot what you use. Jacque suggests rolling a heavy based pan over the peppercorns. I used a mallet after putting the peppercorns in a sandwich bag. I made a lot of noise and suddenly my peppercorns were transformed from mere mortal peppercorns to "mignonnette". Peppery flavorful and fresh.

Put your "mignonnette" ("ha ha ha, we all sound like Maurice Chevalier" -- that's an obscure Mel Brooks History of the World reference) on a plate and drop your steak in the peppers. Season with salt. Flip it and repeat the process. Your steak is just about ready.
If you look at the picture you can see where I started making a mistake. Or at least I feel like I started making a mistake. When it was all said and done I felt like I didn't do quite as well as I should have. If you look closely you can see an abundance of whole peppercorns. I don't think I crushed the peppercorns as much as I should have. When we were eating it we would hit whole uncrushed peppercorns and it was just a wee bit of too much spiciness.

I was definitely touchy about crushing the peppercorns too much. I was worried that I might be over-crushing them. Ok, its confession time and in retrospect I know this might sound silly. I was worried if I crushed the peppercorns too much it wouldn't be too different from the ground peppercorns from the grinder. I didn't think the recipe called for ground peppercorn. It called for crushed peppercorn. I tried crushing the peppercorns without pulverizing them.

In writing this blog entry I just reread the recipe and realized I made a second mistake. The recipe actually says to cook in browned butter. I, as is often my preference, cooked the steak dry. Why dry? Because I LOVE FOND!!!!!!

Here's a pic of the finished product (served with corn and asparagus stew (see next post)). There's actually a balsamic reduction on top too.
So peppercorns weren't cracked enough. Should have used butter. I guess that means this technique goes back into "to do" list. Don't get me wrong. It still tasted really good. It just wasn't as good as it could have been done. The portions of the steak that had fewer whole peppercorns were delicious. I love the simplicity of the recipe as well. Don't get discouraged by my stumbles. It's still good and tasty.

I will say too that as I've started cooking more and more I am getting a better feeling on seasoning meats. I've learned that to properly season meat it includes using a lot more salt than I would have normally used. And when I am talking about seasoning I mean pre-cooking seasoning not post-cooking. If you are   adding some salt and pepper to a simply straight forward saute cut of meat, use more rather than less.

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