The weather has got the best of me. Normally, I don’t complain about the temperature, regardless of season, because I really try to appreciate the best of each seasonal offering any time of year. But this year has been particularly cold, with snow and extra snow. Then, there was more snow. Sometimes, too much of a good thing really is too much, and in this case, as much as I love winter, I’m looking forward to spring (meaning the time of year when little green sprouts surface through the ground and on the trees, the sun shines brighter, and it’s time to think about what to plant in the garden this year, and not just the passing of the proverbial date on the calendar).
Because our winter has overstayed its welcome, I’m all casseroled out, and tired of sitting by the fire waiting for the warm weather to arrive. I’d rather be cooking on the fire instead of sitting next to it, so this past weekend, I welcomed spring (if only in my mind) by firing up the barbecue. Actually, I had Meat and Tater Man fire it up, because he likes to cook outdoors. Since it had been so long from the last time I had barbecue, I settled on filet mignon (my, when those cravings hit, they hit hard). My first instinct was to serve this unadorned because I like my meat mostly untouched, except for the grill marks that grace each side of it, but this weekend, I wanted a pan sauce to go with my beef. Maybe it’s because I just haven’t shaken off this cold effect yet and am still craving comfort and warmth.
I pulled out my favourite steakhouse cookbook, Morton’s The Cookbook, and perused its content over a glass of wine. I found a great recipe that inspired my peppercorn sauce below. At Morton’s restaurant, they serve this sauce with New York sirloin strip roast, but I chose filet mignon because of the cravings I had. After making my own version of it, I’d agree that it would be right at home served alongside almost any cut of beef.
I like this version I’ve created, because there isn’t too much pepper(corn), unlike a classic Steak au Poivre recipe, where you coat the whole steak with peppercorns before cooking. Good, but a bit too peppery for my taste. This hits all the right notes – some gentle spice and heat from the peppercorns, fine base notes from the aromatics in the shallot and garlic, smoothness from the Cognac (though you could use brandy, whiskey or bourbon), and a velvety mouthfeel from the cream. The Worcestershire adds umami, and everything comes together perfectly. While this recipe serves two, feel free to double or triple the recipe as needed to serve more people.
If you’re tired of the cold weather, some barbecue will make you feel better, and hopefully, more hopeful about the sunny days to come.
This sauce is easy to make and goes with any cut of beef. Instead of Cognac, you could also use brandy, whiskey or bourbon.
Feel free to substitute your favourite cut of meat - tenderloin, sirloin, rib eye, and grill it to your liking. If you've got good beef, I recommend cooking it no more than medium rare, and letting it rest properly (5 to 10 minutes) before cutting into it. The steak will stay nice and red, but the juices will have had time to redistribute properly in the meat, so you won't be left with a pool of red liquid at the bottom of your plate when you cut into your steak.
It's important to leave the meat uncovered while resting. Small pieces of meat will steam under a foil blanket, and continue cooking well past the desired doneness.
If you're in charge of making the sauce and cooking the steaks, I suggest making the sauce first, then setting it aside, covered, while the steaks cook. When the steaks are resting, you can reheat the sauce gently, if needed, just before serving.
Adapted from Morton's The Cookbook
- 2 steaks of your choice (sirloin, New York strip, filet mignon, rib eye)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- For the Peppercorn Sauce:
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp coarsely cracked black peppercorns
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 1 large clove of garlic, finely minced
- 2 tbsp Cognac
- 3/4 cup beef broth
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Remove the steaks from the refrigerator and let them rest at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Season the steaks with a bit of olive oil, then sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Preheat the barbecue for direct medium grilling. Ensure the grates are clean.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. (You can start this in advance of grilling the steaks if you're on your own to cook the meal). In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
- Add the peppercorns, shallot and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften.
- Add the Cognac, and cook for a few minutes more, until the Cognac has been reduced by half.
- Add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce and cream, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat a bit, and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes, until the sauce reduces a bit and gets thicker (more like a gravy consistency). Season to taste with a bit of salt if necessary.
- Cook the steaks on the grill to your liking. For medium rare, 4 minutes on each side should suffice, but if you're cooking in the middle of winter you may need a bit more time. A meat thermometer inserted into the side of the steak will be the most effective way of judging doneness. I like to cook it until it reaches 135F, then let the meat rest for 10 minutes. If you like your meat more on the medium side, give it an extra minute on each side.
- Regardless of how long you cook your meat, let the steak rest uncovered on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes. This allows the juices in the steak to redistribute evenly through the meat, and ensures your meat is juicy, instead of having the juices pool at the bottom of your plate the moment you cut into the meat.
- When ready to eat, place the steak on a plate and pour over the peppercorn sauce.