Steak “au Poivrade” – Cracked pepper sauce (easy)

Sometimes one must eat dinner alone, though I must admit I don’t care to.  To offset such misfortunes, I turn solo meals into a treat with a recipe that’s satisfying but easy enough to justify cooking for one. This is such a dish, a favorite from my bachelor days.  But please don’t feel compelled to save it for a night on your own – it works just as well for two.  Or a crowd.

There are two keys to success here.  A heavy pan (a well-seasoned cast iron skillet is ideal) and freshly ground peppercorns.  I recommend green peppercorns here, as they are significantly milder than their black counterpart, and won’t fight the wine.  If black peppercorns are all you have, use half the amount called for.  And while steaks are welcome at my house in all seasons, the backbone of mild heat that runs through this sauce will warm the cockles of the coldest Winter-chilled heart!  A great cold-weather dish.  (Image from Shawna’s Food Blog – click to find another recipe for comparison)

Ingredients

1 Steak / person (about ¾ pound if bone-in)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Shallot – minced
¼ Cup cognac (or red wine, in a pinch)
¼ Cup red wine
2 tsps green peppercorns, roughly smashed
1/3 Cup cream (or a bit less, with a good pat of butter whisked in at the end)
Salt & freshly-ground pepper to taste

Procedure
Heat a heavy frying pan over medium heat for several minutes.  Season the steak with salt & pepper and prepare your ingredients.  Remove pan from heat, add oil and quickly tilt to coat evenly.  Return to heat and add steak – do not move until it is time to flip!  Cook to preferred doneness, remembering the meat continues cooking after removing it from the pan.  Cover and place in warm oven.  (Alternatively, grilling the steak adds nice complexity)

In the pan, adjust the fat so there is a scant tablespoon.  Add the minced shallot and sauté a few minutes until lightly browned.  Pour in cognac and deglaze the pan. Add the red wine, raise heat to med-high and reduce liquid by ¼.  Add the peppercorns and whisk in the cream.  Reduce sauce until it coats the back of a spoon.  Whisk in cold butter, if using, and serve as desired – this sauce is nice whether served as a base, a topping or on the side.  And don’t under-estimate its deliciousness when used to top potatoes or steamed vegetables!

Wine Pairings – Pair this with bold reds such as Zinfandel, Syrah, Rhone blends or new world Cabernets or Bordeaux blends.