Classic Steak au Poivre
The one thing we have profoundly to thank French classic cookery for is the creation of steak au poivre. Good, beefy steak, fragrant peppercorns and red wine are a most sublime combination. Don't be tempted to think that naff restaurants that serve steak au poivre swimming in a sickly cream and brandy sauce have got it right – they haven't. This version is the classic one and the best.
If you've got time, prepare your steak au poivre one or several hours ahead. Begin by crushing the peppercorns very coarsely with a pestle and mortar (if you don't have a pestle and mortar then use the back of a tablespoon and crush them on a flat surface).
Now take a shallow dish, large enough to hold 2 steaks comfortably side by side, then pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil mixed with half a clove of the crushed garlic into the dish.
Then coat each steak evenly on both sides with the crushed peppercorns, pressing them in firmly. Lay the steaks in the dish and spoon the other tablespoon of oil and the rest of the garlic over them. Cover with clingfilm and leave them aside for several hours, turning them over once.
When you're ready to cook the steaks, you need a thick-based frying pan. Place it over a very high heat and let it preheat until it's very hot indeed – the more daring you can be in getting the pan really hot, the better the finished steak will be! Now quickly drop each steak directly into the pan. Sear them quickly on both sides – give them about 1 minute on each side.
Then lower the heat and cook them how you want them. Some people like them 'blue', which means seared only and very rare; for medium rare give them 3 more minutes, and for well done, 4 more minutes.
Either way, 1 minute before the end of the cooking time, pour in the wine, then let it bubble and reduce down to a syrupy consistency about one-third of its original volume. This whole process will be very brief. Sprinkle with salt and serve the steaks as quickly as possible with the wine sauce poured over.
If you want to be really French, serve with _frites_ and a green salad.
_This recipe first appeared in Sainsbury's Magazine (Guide to Meat Cookery)._