For today’s installment it’s all about impressing others, but before I get to that I’ll give you some background, because really, who doesn’t love a story?
When I first moved to Haiti the only local restaurant that was even worth attempting it eat at was one of the local resorts down the road from us. Whenever we went there Chris would, without fail, order the Steak Au Poivre (pepper steak). I always thought paying twelve plus dollars for a chunk of steak smothered in sauce and a side of fries was a bit silly, until I tried it. It was really, really good. So good that I was determined to learn how to make it. I remembered that someone had bought and left a copy of a Haitian cook book at the mission so one day I thumbed through it and lucked by finding a recipe for Steak Au Poivre. Since first making it I’ve tweaked it a bit and both Chris and I have come to love it so much that when we eat out and have this particular meal we compare it to mine, not the other way around, which is really flattering, but not so good if I want to get myself taken out for dinner, if you know what I mean.
This recipe is one of my favorites because not only is it incredibly delicious, but it’s also super easy. It’s also versatile because you can use the sauce on other meats, which I love. Just the other night I made it with pork chops and it was just as good. The best thing though is that people will think you slaved over the stove because it has that gourmet feel to it. Trust the french. I would highly recommend making this for a nice, adult dinner party. And totally name drop by casually calling it by it’s French name. You know, when people ask you what’s on the menu just off handedly say, “Oh, just steak au poivre with vegetables and a nice salad,” while you dismissively wave your hand in the air like it’s nothing and they give you that look of “Really?!” and you laugh to yourself in your head because you really do know that it is so very simple. People will think you’re all that. And then they’ll brag to all their friends about the amazing dinner they had at your place and how you made this amazing french dish etc, etc.
A few notes… This is best when you can get a thicker cut of meat, but it’s not necessary. The key is to tenderize the meat with a shake on meat tenderizer ahead of time if it’s not the best cut. Alos, this is generally served with French fries to sop up all that amazing sauce. Here in Haiti they make them homemade and they’re cut thin and cooked nice and crispy. I still haven’t mastered that. If I’m not feeling ambitious, which is most of the time, I serve it with a baked potato, also good for serving the sauce. You can be cooking the potatoes while you cook the meat etc. Seriously, about 30 minutes start to finish depending on how you like your meat cooked. Add a side vegetable or salad and you have a delicious meal.
STEAK AU POIVRE
4 pieces of steak about the size of a deck of cards each
3-4 tbsp. butter or margarine softened
1/2 tsp pepper (maybe a bit more)
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
2 tbsp regular mustard
3/4 can or beef or chicken broth (use the whole can if you’re cooking for more people)
1/2 tsp. peppercorns
1/2 tsp dried mushroom powder (can be omitted)**
1/2-3/4 c. cream
1 tbsp cornstarch or flour
2-3 tbsp water
1. Mix your first few tablespoons of butter with the pepper in a bowl. Take that mixture and rub it all over your meat. You can set it aside for a bit, but it’s not necessary.
2. In a hot skillet fry your meat. The combo of fat from the butter and the heat will help sear in all those juices. I sear each side for a couple of minutes, then continue cooking. We like ours still pink inside, but it’s entirely up to you. Just cook as you prefer. When meat has reach desired doneness turn down the heat to about medium and remove the meat to a plate and set aside.
3. In your same skillet that is still on the heat put in the remaining butter and whisk around the pan to get up some of that cooked on meat/pepper goodness. When the butter is melted completely add your mustard and keep whisking around the pan. Don’t breathe too deep, that mustard is potent.
4. When the butter and mustard are combined start adding your stock. I do half first, whisk it around to get any remaining bits off the pan, then add the rest and whisk to combine everything well. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Now add your peppercorns and continue to simmer for another few minutes.
5. Now add your cream. You will want to turn your heat down to low and just let it simmer away. At this point I like to add my meat, and any juices that have collected on the plate, back into the pan to simmer. This just helps the meat absorb the sauce flavor. You can let it simmer for 5 minutes or more, turning a couple times, while you get the other parts of the meal ready.
6. Remove your meat, again, and set aside. Put the cornstarch or flour in a cup with water and stir. If I’m using flour I actually like to put it in a container with a lid and shake. This is a good way to get a smooth mix and avoid lumps in your sauce (works great with gravy). Turn up your heat a bit and when the sauce starts to bubble a little slowly whisk in your cornstarch/flour mixture. You should see it thicken within a minute. Just keep stirring/whisking. If it doesn’t you might need to add some more. When the sauce starts to thicken turn off the heat. You don’t want it to get too thick in the pan as it’ll thicken up a bit more as it cools.
7. Put your meat and sauce in a serving dish, or for a nice touch, plate up each serving ahead of time and let people add their own veggies etc. You will definitely want the extra sauce on the table because people will probably keep pouring it on.
**Here in Haiti they have what is called djon djon, which is dried mushroom powder. They use it in cooking rice and things like that. I like to add about a tablespoon, but it’s not necessary at all.
Late edit: Heather left a comment regarding the “pomme frites” and she’s right on. Next time I cook the fries this is what I’m doing.
I know the trick for the really good crispy truly *french* french fries (to go with the steak au poive)… pomme frites are so good (and not like american fries) because they deep fry them twice. That’s the secret. So… cut the potatoes in thin strips, and deep fry them in hot oil once — just until they are tender and cooked through, but not crispy. Take them out of the oil, sprinkle with salt, and let them sit awhile to cool (on paper towels or something else to absorb the excess oil). You can do this well in advance of the meal. Right before you want to eat, get the oil heated up again and RE-FRY the fries until they are browned and crispy. Quickly remove from oil, sprinkle with more salt, and serve right away. Seriously, that’s the trick. Try it and you’ll see how good they are!!!!!