Steak with green peppercorn sauce is a French bistro classic. The sauce is done in the pan after the steak is cooked. The method of making the sauce is so simple, obvious and French that finding where it came from is essentially impossible.
In the 1903 Le Guide Culinaire, Escoffier provides a ‘sauce poivrade,‘ which he suggests for game dishes. This sauce uses a stock, enriched with espagnole sauce that is then peppered, and smoothed with butter. A version of it gains redcurrant jelly as a sauce for venison. This preparation lacks the wine, cognac and cream that tends to appear in modern versions.
The fully-formed cognac/cream/butter version appears in Larousse where the stock is added as a demi glace, and the green peppercorns are suggested as a side note. This is very likely the bistro reference point. Variations on the sauce frequently add shallots. The recipe we have given here is that of Larousse, with the peppercorns, and with actual quantities and instructions added.
Steak au poivre is sometimes prepared by adding a full-on peppercorn crust to the steak per Yves Champeau, and then cooking and smothering over with the green peppercorn sauce. This results in a very peppery dish.
Note that finding green peppercorns in the UK has become inexplicably difficult. When we made this we were given corns by our friends at the Old Hall at Whitehough. The Old Hall can be found at Whitehough, Chinley, High Peak SK23 6EJ. Call +44 1663 750529 for a reservation. Just go for the food and not for grocery shopping.
Steak au poivre vert
- 250ml beef stock (see notes)
- 2 sirloin steaks at room temperature
- 1 tbsp oil
- 20g butter
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp cognac
- 1 glass white wine
- 3 tbsp green peppercorns, drained of their preserving oil
- 100ml double cream
- 1 knob of butter
Put the stock in a pan and reduce to coating consistency (about 10 mins).
Brush the steak with the oil and season with salt add a generous sprinkling of pepper.
Heat a sauté pan with 20g of butter. Hold the steak on its fatty edge to render down the fat, and the cook the steak on one side until crusted. Turn the steak over and cook until done as liked. A sirloin is best medium rare. Add the cognac to the pan, reduce a second, and flambé until the flames die out. Set the steak aside to rest while you finish the sauce.
Add the wine to the pan and reduce until only 1 tbsp is left. Add the peppercorns and sauté them for a moment. Add the stock and reduce a bit more for a couple of minutes. Use the back of a spoon to crush some of the peppercorns a little.
Add the cream and reduce some more until the sauce is thick. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter.
Plate up the steak and pour over with the sauce.
If you happen to have some actual demi-glace hanging about, then use a couple of tablespoons of that instead of reduced stock.