A cut of beef that I've started seeing in the supermarkets around Saint-Aignan and that I particularly like is called basse-côte. I think it might be part of what we call the chuck — as in chuck roast or chuck steak. It's really hard to compare cuts of meat in France and in the U.S. because butchering styles are so different in the two countries.
Week before last both Intermarché in Contres and a smaller market in Saint-Aignan called Coccinelle had advertised specials on basse côte de bœuf. At Intermarché it was going for a little less than seven euros per kilogram — that would be about four U.S. dollars per pound. At Coccinelle it was more like ten euros a kilo, or close to six dollars a pound. I don't really know how that compares to U.S. prices.
Basse-côte ("bottom rib") of beef coated with cracked pepper, pan-roasting in butter
I bought a package of six basse-côte steaks at Intermarché and froze them separately so we'd have them over the next month or two. Walt has grilled a couple of the steaks and they're very tasty and tender. We decided to have another one a couple of days ago, in the middle of our four-day rainy spell. Grilling was not really an option, but pan-fried steak au poivre with a cognac cream sauce was, and was it ever good! There's nothing like good, comforting food when the weather is lousy.
The basse-côte steak "marinating" in crushed black peppercorns
I used a mortar and pestle to crush some black peppercorns, which I pressed onto the surface of the meat. I left it to "marinate" for about an hour before panning the steak quickly in a hot skillet with a little butter. Then I put the steak in a warm oven to rest and wait while I made the sauce. The first step was to deglaze the frying pan with cognac, white wine, beef broth, or just water. Cognac gives the sauce a nice flavor, and concentrated beef broth gives it good flavor as well as a nice brown color.
As it cooked, the meat separated into its natural sections because the connective tissue more or less melted. It was cooked medium-rare.
Let the cognac, wine, and/or broth boil away so that the pan is nearly dry and then pour or spoon in a good quantity of cream (crème fraîche is what I used) — a cup or a little less, say, for a small steak. Adding a spoonful of Dijon mustard gives good flavor. A few drops of Worcestershire sauce wouldn't be wasted. And then let the cream reduce and thicken for a few minutes over high heat.
Take the steak out of the oven and put it in the sauce, turning it immediately to coat both sides with peppery cream. Serve it right away, before it has time to cook further. I like it rare or medium rare, so that it stays tender.