A Great Steak – The Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak – Made in a Great Pan
Once they’re seasoned, they’re really, really nonstick — no chemical coatings involved
And once they’re seasoned and used for the first time, they’ll never look this shiny again — and that’s a good thing: the darker the pan becomes, the better it is to cook with
They get super hot, so you can get a great crust on anything you’re searing
They’re all metal (iron), so they go from stovetop right into the oven — you can do the chef thing of searing and pre-cooking on the stove and then finishing the cooking in the oven
Two caveats: They"re not inexpensive — but they’ll last a long, long time. (My chef friends use their pans for years and give them a whole lot more wear than most of us ever will.) And you must — absolutely must — season them before you use them and then, going against almost everything you always do, you must not scrub them, must not wash them with anything other than water (and the occasional salt rub) and you must store them with a very thin film of oil. Do this and everything from a fried egg to a hunk of meat won’t stick.
And speaking of hunks of meat — here’s the recipe for the Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak, a great recipe that deserves a great pan.
BISTROT PAUL BERT PEPPER STEAK
From Around My French Table, Dorie Greenspan
Makes 4 servings
About 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, preferably Sarawak pepper (it’s what’s used at Paul Bert), or a mix of peppercorns
4 filet mignons, each 1- to 1 1/2-inches thick
1 tablespoon mild oil, such as grapeseed or canola
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup cognac or other brandy (plus a splash more if desired)
1/2 cup heavy cream
The peppercorns need to be coarsely cracked, a job that’s done quickly and easily with a mortar and pestle. Lacking that duo, put the peppercorns in a kitchen towel, so they don’t go flying about, and give them a couple of bashes with the bottom of a heavy skillet or the heel of a knife. Sprinkle some of the peppercorns on both sides of each steak, and use the palm of your hand to press them into the meat.
Put a heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat and add the oil and the butter. When the butter has melted, slip in the steaks and cook them for 2 to 3 minutes, or a minute or so longer, if you like your beef better done. Flip them over, give them another 2 to 3 minutes in the pan, then transfer them to a warm plate and cover them loosely with a foil tent.
Pour off and discard all of the fat in the pan, but leave any bits of steak that might have stuck to the bottom; let the pan cool for a minute or so. Now you’ve got a decision to make: to flame the cognac or to let it boil down. If you decide to burn the cognac, pour it into the pan, stand back and set a match to the cognac. When the flames have subsided, stir the pan to scrape up whatever bits of meat are in the pan. If you want to boil the cognac, put the pan over medium heat, pour in the cognac and let it cook until it’s almost evaporated – you want to have a little left and want to scrape up whatever bits of steak have stuck to the pan.
When you’ve reduced the cognac, lower the heat and add the cream. Swirl the pan and let the cream bubble gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Now Bertrand, the owner of the Bistrot Paul Bert, says, “Salt with care and that’s it!!!” And that can be it, but if you’d like just a slightly stronger flavor of cognac, when you pull the pan from the heat, swirl in 1 more teaspoon of the spirit.
Serving: Transfer the steaks to warm dinner plates, spoon over some of the sauce and head for the table. At Bistrot Paul-Bert, the steak would come with frites, always a good idea, but other good ideas include Grated Potato and Bacon Gratin, Celery Root Puree, simple Broth-Braised Potatoes or anything steamed and green.