Valentine’s Special – Steak au Poivre

Do you need a last minute idea for a Valentine’s Dinner for your special ladyfriend? Did you decide to avoid the craziness of the restaurants on Tuesday?  Was it time to cook a very nice meal yourself? Did you forget to plan anything? There is still more than enough time for this wonderful meal.

This classic french bistro dish is the perfect valentine’s day meal (if you eat red meat and like black pepper). I do not promise that this is healthy, but it most certainly is delicious!

Assemble the ingredients necessary:

  • 4Tbsps of Butter.  Maybe less.
  • 4 Tbsps of Brandy – Any VSOP will do.  If you go more expensive, remember you better like brandy or bandy based cocktails to drink with whats left. Note to self – do Sidecar cocktail post soon.
  • Black Peppercorns
  • ½ Cup Heavy Cream or Whipping Cream,
  • Filet mignon or beef tenderloin You can do 4-6 ounces per person.  Honestly, I just told the butcher to give me two 1” thick steaks off the tenderloin.  They turned out to be approximately 6-7 ounces each.

Get a regular pan, not a nonstick pan.  You can make this with a nonstick pan but it is inferior.

Step 1: Bring the meat to room temperature.  This is important, do not skip this step.

Step 2: Place sautee pan over medium high heat and add two tablespoons of butter

Step 3: Place peppercorns in a plastic zip top bag.  Mash the bag with a rolling pin or cast iron skillet to pulverize the peppercorns.  This is the hardest step of the entire process; a mortar and pestle would be ideal, but those are rare in modern kitchens. Pour pulverized peppercorns into a shallow saucer or plate.

Step 4: Pat the meat dry with a paper towel and season with salt on both sides.  Now push the meat into the peppercorn laden saucer from step 3, on both sides, to encrust the meat with the black pepper bits.

Step 5: The butter should have finished melting, it will foam a bit and a smell not unlike nutmeg will fill the air.  Before the butter burns, add the meat to the pan!

Step 6: Cook the steaks a total of three minutes on each side (6 minutes total) for medium rare, 4 minutes on each side (8 minutes total) for medium.  They should only be flipped once.  If you want to try to look fancy, tilt the pan to get any of the butter into the edge, and quickly spoon the butter over the top of the steaks to enhance the cooking on the side facing you.  Bonus points if you sound like Gordon Ramsey when you make a mistake and burn your forearm with scalding hot butter.

Step 7: Remove the meat from the pan to a safe and clean area to rest, cover with an aluminum foil tent. This part gives the meat a time to reach a comfortable stage where all of the juice won’t run out when you cut it.

Step 8: Reduce the heat to medium low and add half the brandy to the pan.  Add another 2 tbsps of butter and the heavy cream.  Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon loosening the bits of steaky goodness, called fond, in the bottom of the pan.  Return the heat to medium-high and stir almost constantly.  The sauce will reduce and thicken.  You want it to reduce approximately half.  Just watch the edge of your pan and eyeball when it is about half its original volume and thicker.

Step 9: Move the rested steaks to beautiful white plates, pour or spoon the delectable sauce over the steaks and serve with a glass of pinot noir.

Step 10: Sigh as your eyes roll back into your head at the delicious meal you are sharing with your ladyfriend.

P.S. – Need a side?  Try a french baked tomato.  Cut a beefsteak tomato in half.  Top with a bread crumb, minced garlic, parsley, salt and pepper combination.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 425F for about 10 minutes in an aluminum foil lined pan while you make the steak.  You can also make fettuccine, wide flat noodles, that will soak up some of the extra sauce which is what I did.  Or, just a simple green salad to balance the deliciousness of the steak.

  • Caroline Proctor

    Love this recipe. And love how you present it. Very “approachable”, without sounding condesending.

  • Joel

    Thank you! I am hoping what I post won’t be condescending and that is something achievable. I don’t want to put things up that I know people can’t readily translate to their own kitchen. Save when I do actually do that, but it will be clearly designated as shameless self promotion & showing off.

  • Nwafoodie

    Um, yum. Black pepper was created for steak, in my opinion.  And baked tomatoes?  Heavenly.  Well done!  (<– sorry for the pun!)


    aka nwafoodie