Classic steak au poivre is a simple dish of seared peppercorn-crusted steaks with a creamy pan sauce.

Steak au poivre AKA pepper steak is a classic French dish of peppered steak, traditionally a filet mignon, coated with coarsely cracked peppercorns and then cooked. The peppercorns form a crust on the steak when cooked providing a complementary counterpoint to the rich flavor of the high-quality beef.

You can use heavy cream for a sweeter more delicate sauce OR crème fraîche for tangier pan sauce, based on your personal preference. Both work well!

Pre-salting the steaks seasons them well while allowing the surface of the meat to dry out so that the peppercorns can stick better. Encrusting the steaks on only one side allows you to sear the meat better and build up better flavor for the pan sauce. (The other half of the peppercorns goes into the sauce, so you don’t lose that great spice flavor.)

4 – 6 ounce boneless medallion steaks, such as filet mignon
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1 ounce whole peppercorns black or tri-colored, plus more as needed, cracked and divided
3 tablespoons avocado oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 thyme sprigs
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1 SMALL shallot, minced
2 tablespoons brandy or cognac
3/4 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream or 6 tablespoons crème fraîche

  • Season steaks all over with kosher salt. Set on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and allow to air-dry, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Spread cracked peppercorns in a shallow dish and firmly press one side of each steak into the pepper to encrust it in an even layer.
  • Set each steak aside, peppercorn side up, reserving any remaining cracked peppercorns.
In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  • Add steaks, peppercorn side down, and cook until peppercorns are well toasted, about 3 minutes.
  • Carefully turn steaks, trying not to break the peppercorn crust.
  • Add butter, thyme, and garlic and cook, basting steaks with a spoon, until steaks are well seared on the second side.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Transfer steaks to a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Check internal temperature. They are medium rare at 125° and are ready to be served. If they haven’t reached temperature, transfer to oven and continue cooking until the correct internal temperature is reached.
  • Allow steaks to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from skillet and discard garlic and thyme.
  • Add shallot and any reserved cracked peppercorns, return to medium heat, and cook, stirring, until shallot is tender, about 2 minutes.
  • Add brandy or cognac.
  • Cook until raw alcohol smell has burned off and brandy has almost completely evaporated.
  • Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer, stirring and scraping up any browned bits.
  • Whisk in cream or crème fraîche, then simmer, stirring often, until sauce has reduced enough to glaze a spoon.
  • Season to taste.
  • Arrange steaks on plates and pour sauce on top.

NOTES: To prevent unexpected flare-ups when working with a gas range, turn off the burner, add the alcohol, then reignite the burner.

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