I don’t have the great tolerance for spicy foods most Asians stereotypically have. I’m not interested in getting into wars with habaneros and bhut jolokias to prove a point. No, thank you. I do enjoy freshly ground black pepper on my food, though — it warms things up without being murderous.
stuff about pepper
Black pepper, which is the fruit of a flowering vine, is the world’s most traded spice. Vietnam currently leads the world in its production, supplying 34% of what is on the market today.
|Pepper is native to India and has been in use there since prehistoric times. The Malabar Coast in India was the main source of black pepper during the days of spice trade and today still produces the highest-quality black pepper known as Tellicherry pepper. Tellicherry pepper is the top 10% of pepper from all Malabar plants grown on Mount Tellicherry. Tellicherry is a super-nifty name, isn’t it? Tellicherry Tellicherry Tellicherry! I’m going to name my next pet Tellicherry.|
The stories of spices being so valuable they were used as currency are completely true. Even today, the humble (but spicily delicious) peppercorn is still used as (symbolic) rent. According to Wikipedia:
The Masonic Lodge of St. George’s #200, in Bermuda, rents the Old State House as their lodge for the annual sum of a single peppercorn, presented to the island’s governor on a velvet cushion atop a silver platter, in an annual ceremony performed since 1816 on or about April 23.
The Sevenoaks Vine Cricket Club in Sevenoaks, England, rent the Vine Cricket Ground from Sevenoaks Town Council at a yearly rent of two peppercorns which covers the ground and pavilion. The council in return, if requested, gives a new cricket ball to Baron Sackville every year.
The English have such charming little customs.
lazy with pepper
Since I’ve rejoined the cult of mind-f#ckery known as Improving Your Billiard Skills, I am back to having not-as-much free time. That means no more ridiculous hours- or day-long labor-intensive cooking (although the results were spectacular) for a tasty meal. We’re back to austerity and efficiency. It’s good to have both, but either quality is desirable.
One of the fastest meals I can make is a steak. A good steak never needs more than a little salt and/or pepper, but every now and then, I like having a sauce with it.
Today’s recipe is a streamlined version of the classic Black Pepper Steak and includes a creamy Mushroom Sauce which can double as a side dish instead of/as well as a sauce.
|Paresseux avec le Poivre|
|Black Pepper Steak with Mushroom Sauce|
First off, you’ll need some steak(s).
Here, I have three top blade chuck steaks weighing in together at about a pound. Top blade chuck steaks have a little line of chewy stuff down the middle which I happen to like, although not everyone else likes it. Aside from that, these steaks are very flavorful and inexpensive, making them a delicious Austerity Measure.
If you are not looking to be Austere Powers, International Man of Miserly, use whatever bourgeois cut of steak you like. (I recommend the leaner cuts, save the ribeyes for another time.)
Whoever does the cutting of meat at my supermarket is a bomb-ass person. He/She seems to know I buy these steaks on a regular basis and has recently begun cutting them to 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thicknesses. Before, they would be cut quickly into 1-inch or thicker chunks and then wrapped. Since these steaks are on the lean side (Healthy Measures), it is important they be cut on the thinner side and cooked quickly.
Take the steaks out of the refrigerator to allow them to come to room temperature.
Lightly salt the steaks on both sides.
If you were to make a proper Steak au Poivre, you would take whole peppercorns and crush them into coarse bits using a mortar and pestle. Doing so ensures the sharpest, brightest flavor of pepper is brought to light. But, guess what — today I’m a Lazy Bastard(ess) and I just wasn’t feeling the extra time or effort.
What I do is set my McCormick’s Peppercorn Medley grinder to coarse (yep, these new ones allow for adjustable grinds) and generously crank out some fresh pepper bits on to the steak. Then, I take out my already-ground black pepper (sacrilege, I know — but we’re all about efficiency here).
I shake out about two tablespoons worth of ground pepper into a shallow dish (that’s a glass dish — I’m not actually just using my countertop). Place a steak into the pepper and gently press the pepper into the meat, covering all surfaces including the sides. Repeat with other steaks and add more pepper as necessary.
Let them chill out next to each other on the plate as they warm up to room temperature some more.
Now, we begin with the basics of the Mushroom Sauce. Peel and mince a large shallot.
Set aside for the time being.
Take out about a cup of flat-leaf parsley and wash well. Shake off excess water (or use a salad spinner if you want to wash more dishes and have All The Time In The World). Pluck off the leaves from the tough stem. We’re going to mince it, but it’s best to not have the tough stems there. They’re good for bouquet garni but not much else.
Wad up the leaves and tender stems and slice across as thinly as possible. Give the pile a quarter turn when you’re done and slice across again. Set aside.
|Get your mushrooms and slice ’em up! I was lazy so I bought pre-sliced mushrooms that were on sale.|
|If you want to up the Non-Austerity factor of the dish, throw in some of the more exotic shrooms out there (not the ones that make you see all the lyrics to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds). Some to consider are: morels, chanterelles (pricey but delicious), oysters (I’m going to try these next time), and/or trumpet mushrooms.|
|The regular white mushrooms are fine, too.|
|The secret ingredient is cognac.|
|I usually substitute sherry for whatever random alcohol is assigned (when it’s not wine) because I have a big bottle of it and I don’t want to buy another bottle of alcohol (for real).|
|This time, I sprang for two mini bottles of cognac, mostly to finally try cognac in a recipe and see what all the fuss is about.|
|The fuss is right.|
|“Leave the gun. Take the cognac.”|
|The cognac is essential. Go get some.|
You now have minced shallots, sliced mushrooms, and minced parsley ready to go. Awesome. Let’s get to the meat of the matter.
For cooking the steak, you’ll need both olive oil and butter. Turn the heat up to high and heat one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in the pan.
When the butter has melted and things are just about smokin’, place the steak(s) in the pan. Because these steaks are on the thin side, it will only take 4 minutes to cook to medium-rare. That means I cook it 2 minutes per side, turning once.
Don’t mess with the Turning Once rule. Fiddle with the steak(s) too much and you won’t allow it to get a nice sear with the pepper crust.
After the steaks are done, place them on plates and keep them warm. While they rest, you’re going to be making the Shroom Sauce.
Your pan should have some oil, melted butter, pepper, and assorted browned bits still in it. That’s good stuff. If the oil level is looking low, add a little butter or olive oil. Reduce the heat to medium and add the minced shallots.
Cook the shallots, stirring frequently, until they are golden and translucent. It won’t take long. Up the heat to high and add the sliced mushrooms. You may have to add butter or oil at this point as well, if the pan is looking dry. Cook the mushrooms, stirring frequently, until almost all the water has been cooked off.
Add the cognac (whee!). While it bubbles away, mix up the sauce thickener of your choice. I am now using arrowroot powder on the advice of one of my readers.
|You can use flour or cornstarch. The ratio to use is one part powder to two parts liquid. I used 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder to two tablespoons half-and-half. Stir it until it’s well mixed.|
|At this point, the cognac should be just about all gone. Add at least 1/2 cup of half-and-half, or cream if you’re baller. Use your judgment about adding more. I ended up using a little less than a cup. Stir it all.|
|Stir the thickening solution and add to the sauce. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer, stirring, until it is as thick as you like it.|
Place each steak on a plate and spoon the sauce over the steak or on the side. Sprinkle the minced parsley over everything so it looks all pretty and stuff.
Repeat three times and eat all the steaks yourself. Or share, if you are so inclined. And that’s how Cooking for Lazy Bastards (and Bastardesses) is done.
This recipe is for Quilt+Bitch, who requested a recipe that did not feature my beloved tomatoes as said tomatoes would probably kill her husband.