Steak au Poivre – how to make the best

“At a scarred wooden table, sipping a treacly apéro served by a waitress who could have been sung into existence by Serge Gainsbourg , I did feel a rekindling of faith. And when that steak au poivre came, it did look magnificent: blood-tender meat blushing under a peppery veil, crowned by an El Dorado of frites.”

Chris Newens, Dinner in l’hôpital Lariboisière, AA Gill award runner up 2019

Steak au Poivre is a genius idea – the peppercorns cut viciously through the rich meat – so it’s no surprise that there are many who claim to have thought of it.

The latest to do so, according to The Food Dictator blog, was Émile Lerch. In 1950 he wrote in La Revue Culinaire, that he had first made it in Albert Blazer’s Restaurant Albert on the Champs-Élysées. He explains it was a case of necessity being the mother of invention. He had two problems. One was a shipment of frozen beef from America which was substandard flavour-wise. The other was a crowd of American customers whose tastebuds had been anaesthetised by a surfeit of pre-dinner cocktails.

His solution was pepper, and, he added corroborating detail, he named it Steak (from the American) au Poivre (from the French) to represent the duality of the ingredients.

The letter resulted in a flurry of other chefs registering their claims, the earliest being from O.Becker, who, it is recorded in Larousse Gastronomique, made it in 1905 whilst working at Palliard’s.

O.Becker might have made it, but did he invent it? According to steak restaurateur, Francis Marie, Steak au Poivre comes from bistros in Normandy, and its original creation was to solve a very different problem. Gentlemen were finding their female dinning companions a little unbending. But pepper is supposed to be an aphrodisiac.

Perhaps that’s why Mimi Sheraton mentions it in her Seducer’s Cookbook. Along with oysters and apple-pecan tart, she advises that it should form “the first meal in your campaign. The food should be the kind ‘he basically loves – meat and potatoes and apple pie, but with a difference’”.

Steak au Poivre goes really well with caramelised shallots, creamed spinach, and wonderful wedge potatoes…. or more traditionally, chips. It’s also splendid with a fennel gratin.

Traditionally pepper is also added to the sauce, but the Saucy Dressings view is that enough is enough!

Enjoy it with a powerful Gigondas.

For much more detail about the best way to cook steak, follow this link.

Music to cook to

Following on from the quote at the beginning of this post, it has to be Serge Gainsbourg singing La Javanaise.

This post is dedicated to The Tort.
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