You pick it, friend—whatever cut you want to use. Most restaurants opt for sirloin (at Les Halles we use the relatively obscure pavé), but because of the flavorful sauce it’s perfectly appropriate to use filet mignon for this one. Filet, while tender as all get-out, lacks somewhat in the flavor arena. A healthy wallop of crunchy black peppercorns more than compensates.
- 4 8-ounce (225-g) steaks
- 2 ounces (56 ml) olive oil
- 2 ounces (56 g) freshly cracked peppercorns (meaning crushed but not ground to powder!)
- 4 ounces (112 g) butter
- 1 ounce (28 ml) good Cognac
- 4 ounces (110 ml) strong, dark veal stock (right now, you really could use a tiny bit of that demi-glace I told you to keep in your freezer)
- Salt and pepper
COOK THE STEAKS
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Moisten the meat very slightly with oil, then dredge each of the steaks in the crushed peppercorns to thoroughly coat. Don’t be shy with the pepper. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet over high heat. Once the oil is hot, add 2 ounces (56 g) of the butter. Place the steaks in the pan and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook to desired doneness, about 5 to 7 minutes for rare, 10 minutes for medium rare, and so on. Remove the pan from the oven and remove the steaks from the pan to rest. Have I told you yet to always rest your meat after cooking? I’ve told you now.
Return the skillet to the stovetop and carefully stir in the Cognac. As much fun as it is to create a column of flame as you add flammable material to an incredibly hot pan, it’s not really desirable or necessary—especially in a home kitchen. Unless you’re a pyromaniac, I recommend carefully adding the Cognac to the still-hot pan off the flame, stirring and scraping with the wooden spoon to get every scrap, every peppercorn, every rumor of flavor clinging to the bottom of the pan. Now place the pan on the flame again and cook it down a bit, by about half. Stir in the veal stock (and demi-glace) and reduce over medium heat until thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Whisk in the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with French fries or sautéed potatoes.
Nutritional information includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving.