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Elizabeth David’s Steak au Poivre
Adapted from Spices, Salts and Aromatics in the English Kitchen (New York, Penguin Books, 1981)

”French restaurant cooks tend to overdo the pepper on steak au poivre to the point where their victims choke on the very first mouthful,” proclaims David in this opinionated exploration of taste and flavor in British cuisine.  David’s own blessedly simple recipe calls for a scant teaspoon of black (“for aroma”) and white (“for strength”) peppercorns for each steak.  Our only alteration to her method is pressing the top of the steaks with a cake pan in order to prevent the peppercorns from falling off, a technique suggested by Cooks Illustrated (September – October, 2001, pp. 8-9).

To serve 2

Ingredients for steak au poivre: 

2 New York strip steaks, about 3/4 pound each
1 clove of garlic, cut in half
1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
Salt to taste
4 tablespoons softened butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley


1 Rub the steaks all over with the cut clove of garlic and then with olive oil.  
2. Put the peppercorns in a ziplock bag and coarsely crush with a rolling pin.  Sprinkle the peppercorns all over the steaks and set them aside for two hours, or refrigerate overnight.
3. Heat a large cast iron skillet over a medium flame until it is very hot.  Place the steaks in the pan and turn the heat up to medium high.  Place a cake pan on top of the steaks and press down firmly.   Sear the steak, then turn to the other side.  Again, press down with the cake pan, and sear.  When both sides are nicely browned,  reduce the heat to medium low. Cook and turn the meat with tongs,  every 1 to 2 minutes until the steak is done to your liking, usually 7 to 8 minutes for medium rare.  Remove the steaks from the pan and let them rest.
4. While the steaks are resting, make the parsley butter:  Beat the softened butter in a bowl until it is very smooth, then beat in the lemon juice.  Add the parsley and mix well.  
5. Serve the steaks topped with one or more tablespoons of parsley butter.


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