Steak au Poivre

From Alton Brown on FoodTV.  This is actually pretty easy and it's really good, but between the tenderloin steaks, the cream, and the cognac, it's WAY over the top.  Not something you just throw together for a quick dinner on a Wednesday night.  Well, actually, I do, but NORMAL people don't.


4 tenderloin steaks, 6 to 8 ounces each, no more than 1-1/2 inches thick
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 cup Cognac plus 1 teaspoon
1 cup heavy cream

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour prior to cooking (note: always bring steaks to room temperature before cooking, it really makes them better).  Sprinkle all sides with salt.

Coarsely crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle, the bottom of a cast iron skillet, or using a mallet and pie pan (get real.  I use a battery-operated peppermill).  Spread the peppercorns evenly onto a plate.  Press the fillets, on both sides, into the pepper until it coats the surface. Set aside.

In a medium skillet (10 inch is perfect) over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil. As soon as the butter and oil begin to turn golden and smoke, gently place the steaks in the pan. For medium-rare, cook for 4 minutes on each side (I use thick tenderloins so I usually go 4 minutes and 15 - 20 seconds for medium-rare.  For "really thick" steaks, like 1-3/4", I'm experimenting with finishing them off in a 300 degree oven; five minutes was too short and ten was too long, next time I'll try seven.). Once done, remove the steaks to a plate, tent with foil and set aside. Pour off the excess fat but do not wipe or scrape the pan clean.   

Off of the heat, add 1/3 cup Cognac to the pan and carefully ignite the alcohol with a long match (note:  I turn off the burner, remove the pan, pour in the cognac, re-light the burner, and tilt the pan over the flames which ignite the cognac [this obviously requires a gas range]).  Gently shake pan until the flames die. Return the pan to medium heat and add the cream. Bring the mixture to a boil and whisk until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Add the teaspoon of Cognac and season, to taste, with salt. Add the steaks back to the pan, spoon the sauce over, and serve.  (Like I said, tenderloin, cream, and cognac.  Really good but really rich).