22 May 2013

Basse-côte de bœuf au poivre

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.


  1. The cut in your photo is indeed from the shoulder. I believe it is a cross-cut of the bicep and triceps muscles where they run along the humerus. It's a cut I find in Mexican markets. The ones here are too tough to cook as steaks so I usually sous-vide them for 54 hours at 55 °C (131 °F).

  2. Peter, sometimes the meat is labeled as basse-côte à griller and sometimes basse-côte à braiser. I'm not sure why. What I bought makes a very tender steak. I think the cut would make good meat for grinding to make hamburgers or meatballs.


  3. I posted an image of our Basse Cote on Facebook and my trusted butcher from Edmonton called it a "rib eye cap on".

    We finally discovered that cut a while ago, after having had a hard time finding good beef pieces. And now, we are happy with the beef too!

  4. Ken, I've noticed that the meat for braising tends to be labelled asa coming from milker breeds... and the meat for grilling from meat species like Limousins, etc.
    Presumably, the unwanted cows and the males from the milkers have a poorer, possibly tougher meat than Limousin & Charolais, etc. that are bred for their meat.

    The basse-côte is also cut more along the lines of UK and US steak... that is "across the muscle" which makes a big difference to the way it eats!!

  5. Tim, entrecôte and rumsteak are cut the same way, I think, across the grain.

    H.Peter, try rumsteak. It's really good and it's the cut you usually find as steak au poivre. And when entrecôte is good, it's really good too. It's what I think of as ribeye steak.

    My steak, after cooking, looks kind of like a horse's head, but I swear it's beef!

  6. Tim, I left a comment on your blog post about collard greens. It took me three tries to get the WV right — too difficult. And now I see that you have comment moderation turned on too. That's over-the-top security, isn't it? At some point commenting becomes just too much trouble.

  7. Ken, your steak au poivre ALWAYS looks so, so scrumptious. yumm :)

  8. Ken

    I thought I was in a restaurant of les Entrecôtes St Jacques. :-)
    Their sauce looks like yours.
    We are having the same weather like you are experiencing . Came back from DC yesterday and as soon as we were crossing the border from NY sate to Ontario, got caught in a thunderstorm and the dark clouds were following us from that crossing back to Montréal.

  9. N., I hope you enjoyed the stay in D.C.

  10. Judy, it's unusual for us to have this kind of sauced steak in spring or summer, but right now our weather is not normal.

  11. Ken, that is peculiar... I've just checked the settings and WV was turned on... not by us, though... it should be off... I'd better check all the others... but I've got "moderation" on for posts that are more than 14 days old... that way I don't miss them... I was missing peoples' posts before... it wasn't as a security measure.
    But I can see what you meant, coupled with WV...

    And yes, entrecote is def. cut across the grain... it looks just like UK sirloin.

  12. Tim, you can set up the Blogger software to send you an e-mail every time anybody leaves a comment on one of your posts, no matter how old the post. No need for comment moderation for that functionality.

  13. Ken

    It was fun. Enjoyed a very good Italian restaurant in Annapolis and the fish market in SW DC.

  14. Ohhh...cognac cream sauce sounds and looks soooo gooood!

  15. Ken, yes, I know about the emails... but I tend to use the laptop on the dining table most of the time.... not my big graphix jobbie that lives in my office space in the longére... and that is where my mail reader be!

    Comment moderation for the older posts works just fine and the newer posts I see as they come up.

    I usually check for "processed pork substance" every day and check moderate then

  16. Wish I could send some of it your way, Starman.

  17. Hi
    I enjoy your blog.
    USDA Choice Ribeye steaks in the Denver area from a medium priced chain (King Soopers) go for a Memorial Day special price of $5.99/pound.


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