Dana Cowin's Steak au Poivre


1½ Tbsp. black peppercorns
2 1-inch New York strip steaks (about ½-pound each), excess fat trimmed, at room temperature
Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
¼ cup cognac
2 small shallots, grated to a paste (preferably on a microplane)
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ cup creme fraiche
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. grated lemon zest


• Put the peppercorns on a small rimmed baking sheet and crush them with a small heavy skillet; be sure not to bash them. Season each side of the steaks generously with salt, then mop up the crushed peppercorns with both sides of the steaks.
• Heat a large heavy stainless steel skilled over high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet. When the oil is smoking hot, carefully place the steaks in the skillet, laying them down away from you (so that if any hot fat splatters, it splatters away from you). Let the steaks cook until the underside is nicely browned and they don’t resist when you try to flip them, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook on the second side until well browned, another 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the steaks onto their fat edges and brown them until the fat is nice and crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer the steaks to a serving dish or dinner plates and let them rest while you make the sauce.
• Pour off and discard all but a very thin layer of fat from the skillet. Take the skillet off the heat and add the cognac. Carefully return the skillet to the heat – the alcohol should immediately burst into flames (not a bad thing!); if it doesn’t, ignite the cognac with a long match or lighter. Once the flames have subsided, lower the heat to medium, add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cooking, stirring, until the raw shallot aroma disappears, about a minute. Whisk in the mustard, creme fraiche, lemon juice and water. Season the sauce to taste with salt, and add more water if you prefer a looser consistency. Remove from the heat.
• Whisk half the parsley into the sauce and sprinkle the steaks with the remaining parsley. Season each steak with a pinch more salt and scatter the lemon zest evenly on top. Spoon the sauce over the steaks and serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission Harper Collins Publishing