I used to cook everything in a non-stick, Teflon-coated frying pan. As well, I used only the Max setting on my stove burners. You can bet I had a lot of burnt bits and smokiness to deal with. Now I know how to make a mean pepper steak that's not burnt or flavorless.
Flavor Base # 1: Create the fond by searing the steak
Pan frying uses a lot less oil and some butter for flavor, and is also considered a dry heat cooking method. After sprinkling the salt and crushed green peppercorns on the steaks, I seared them in a hot pan with oil and butter. When you sear the steak, the outside is caramelized and browned [not burnt], and a crust forms on the meat. This is called the Maillard reaction, which adds flavor to the dish.
As well, after browning, fond (means "base" in French) is stuck to the bottom of the pan. It's these bits that flavor the pan sauce. [You can't use a non-stick frying pan for this!]
Here is some information to determine when a steak is done. After the steaks were finished cooking, I removed them to a warming plate.
Flavor Base # 2: Flambé with Cognac
Then, I poured off any fat, added the Cognac and then quickly lit it. According to Wikipedia, "igniting a sauce with alcohol in the pan changes the chemistry of the food and adds another level of flavor."
Flavor Base # 3: Deglaze the pan with veal stock and cream
Finally, I returned the steaks to the pan and then added Thomas Keller's veal stock, which I had stored in the freezer, and some cream to deglaze the pan. Deglazing simply means lifting up the residue stuck to the bottom of the pan, and it's the secret to a good pan sauce. As well, a good veal stock is key, and what better veal stock to use than Thomas Keller's! It's worth the time and effort. I then reduced this sauce for a bit and seasoned it with salt and pepper.
You can find the recipe for Pavés de Rumsteak au Poivre Vert (Sirloin Steaks with Green Peppercorns) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home or here. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with their recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!
This was the most delicious peppercorn sauce I've ever tasted. It was complex tasting, but not peppery. Plus, it's not hard to make (especially if you have some good veal stock in your freezer).
Next Week (November 12)
• Entrecôte Lyonnaise (Steak, Lyonnaise style) pages 158-159 and grilling/browning
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Running total: $829.25 + $15.41 (steaks) + $4.40 (sauce) + veal stock (free in freezer) = $849.06
Butter used so far: 8 pounds, 5 tablespoons
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We're cooking our way through a cooking school curriculum using the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook. The "classes" are based on the Le Cordon Bleu curriculum found online and used as a guideline. Not all the items in the curriculum are in the cookbook, but most are. Where the items are not in the book, we try to find a suitable substitution. Find out more here.