22 December 2020

Le traditionnel steak au poivre

Yesterday was Walt's birthday. We made his traditional birthday dinner: steak au poivre et pommes frites, with a big green salad dressed with vinaigrette. The first time Walt had steak au poivre, he's told me, was in a restaurant on his birthday in 1981 when he happened to be in Antibes, or maybe Nice, in the south of France sur la Côte d'Azur. Memories blur. The second time he had that dinner for his birthday was with me, in Arlington, Virginia, on his birthday in 1982. We cooked it at his apartment. And we've cooked it for his birthday every year since then. That would be 38 times.

This kind of steak au poivre is made with crushed black pepper (poivre noir concassé) and a cream sauce with Cognac or Calvados (apple brandy from Normandy) and veal or beef broth in it, along with small amounts of Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce. The first step is to coat the steak in crushed pepper, let it "marinate" for an hour or two, and then sear it in a hot frying pan.

Transfer the seared steak to a warming oven and make the sauce in the same pan, de-glazing it with Cognac or Calva, adding a good amount of cream plus the other ingredients. Put the steak back in the pan with the sauce and let it all warm through, but don't let it boil or cook too long. You want the steak rare or maybe medium rare. This year we cooked a thick slice of faux-filet from Limousin cattle (raised a couple of hours south of Saint-Aignan) that we got in a local butcher's shop. Faux-filet is sirloin, I believe. And it's good — especially with the sauce. Here's a page in French about steak names in France and in the U.S.


  1. Oh, I love sirloin. It's my favorite cut of beef. I've never had it with this sauce, but that's nuts, because, every year, the day after Walt's birthday, I say, "Belated happy birthday, Walt!" and "I really have to make this." LOL
    Hope your day was great!

  2. Steak au poivre is definitely one of my favorite. Theses pictures are so mouth watering. I see that, in some kind of way, I participated to Walt's birthday!

  3. That looks delicious! And I’m sure it was.

  4. Ah yes, my first steak au poivre. If I can trust my memory, it was at a restaurant on rue Monsieur le Prince, (6th arr.), the street I took on my daily walk from the Odeon metro to the year abroad office where I worked on rue Soufflot in 1973-74. I think that's right, but as Mark Twain observed: "When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened." Your steak au poivre looks delicious, Ken.

    1. Juanita H. and I used to meet for lunch in restaurants on the rue Monsieur le Prince. Always good, but I don't think I ever had a steak au poivre there. I actually don't remember when I ate my first steak au poivre. But I know I made them, often with steak haché, when I lived in Paris between 1979 and 1982. Again, always good.

  5. My favorite way to eat steak. Belated happy birthday to Walt.

  6. I've made steak au Poivre a number of times, and it's usually been very good. And I like the article with the different American versus French cuts. One problem is that not only are the names different, but the way the animals are cut are different, so that you can't always compare cuts.

  7. This looks so good, like heaven on a plate!


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