Last week, Hubby and I made a trip to World Market. Love that place. I especially enjoy the spice aisle, with all sorts of wonderful seasonings. It was there, alongside the big “blocks” of salt and various grinders that I saw a simple little container of Hickory Smoked Salt. Hum, that was different. Fine Sea Salt from New Zealand with a mild, hickory smoke. You can bet your bottom dollar, that went into my shopping basket.
While planning this week’s menu, I came across a recipe I hadn’t tried yet – Classic Steak au Poivre. While the original recipe called for Kosher Salt, I decided to use the Hickory Salt. Since the steaks were to be pan-seared, I thought the hickory flavor of the salt would give them a nice hint of “smoke” that the cast iron skillet could not impart. The salt was only the first alteration I made from the original recipe.
I blended red and black peppercorns rather than to use only one type. The easiest way to crush peppercorns is to place them in a zip-lock freezer bag (these are a little thicker ply than a sandwich bag) and lay it flat on the counter. Close the bag, pressing out the air as you zip it shut. Then have some fun. One of my kitchen gadgets isn’t really a kitchen gadget at all – it’s a small craft hammer. Perfect for whacking peppercorns.
The final change from the original recipe was to salt and pepper the steaks, then let them rest on the counter for an hour before pan-searing the steak strips. This allowed the salt to seep into the meat, drawing the bits of pepper deep into the meat while breaking down the proteins, thus insuring a more tender “fried” steak.
While the original recipe said to use a heavy-bottom skillet, nothing beats cast iron when it comes to searing steaks. Am I right?
The results were awesome! The steaks were tender and flavorful. The pepper, although noticeable, wasn’t over powering. And the sauce – oh my goodness! When the butter is added to the cast iron skillet, it melts and “browns” immediately. You will need to work quickly, moving on and off the heat to prevent the butter from actually burning. (Since this is done very quickly, sorry but no photos of the sauce in preparation stages).
Steak au Poivre
4 boneless New York Strip Steaks
New Zealand Hickory Smoked Fine Sea Salt
1 Tablespoon Black Pepper Corns, crushed
1 Tablespoon Red Pepper Corns, crushed
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoons Butter
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 cup Cognac
1/3 cup Heavy Cream
1 Tablespoon Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and season both sides lightly with salt. Coat both sides with the peppercorns, pressing so they adhere. Let steaks rest on counter 1 hour to allow salt to tenderize the meat.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the steaks and cook to your desired doneness (2 to 3 minutes per side for medium rare). Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and tent them with foil. Pour off and discard any fat left in the pan, but not the brown bits.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter to the skillet. Give it a quick swirl, and remove from heat. When the butter has melted, return to heat, add the shallot and cook until softened, about 1 minute.
Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully add the Cognac. Return the skillet to heat and cook, whisking, until the Cognac reduces to a glaze, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the cream and simmer on low until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley.
Transfer the steaks to dinner plates and spoon the sauce over the steaks.