According to French steak specialist Francis Marie, steak au poivre originated in the 19th century in the bistros of Normandy, where noted figures took their female companions for late suppers, and where pepper’s purported aphrodisiac properties may have proved most useful.
- 3 tbsp. black peppercorns
- 4 (6-oz.) beef filets, about 1 1/2" thick
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1⁄3 cup cognac
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1⁄2 cup heavy cream
- Wrap peppercorns in a clean dish towel, then crush, either by pressing firmly with the bottom of a heavy skillet or by tapping gently with a mallet. (Peppercorns should be cracked, not ground.) Transfer pepper to a plate, then roll filets in it so that they are evenly coated. Season liberally on both sides with salt.
- Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add filets and cook until well browned, about 4 minutes on each side for medium rare. Transfer steaks to four warmed plates. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm while you prepare sauce.
- Add cognac to hot pan, then carefully ignite with a long-handled match. (Keep lid handy so flame can be extinguished if necessary.) Allow alcohol to burn off, about 1 minute, then add stock. Cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Add cream and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, 3–5 minutes. Season with salt and pour over steaks.