Manage series 1854647
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Total Time: 30 minutes + 30 minutes to bring steaks to room temperature

Serves 2

  • 11⁄2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • Two 1-inch-thick New York strip steaks (about 1⁄2 pound each), excess fat trimmed, at room
  • temperature
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1⁄4 cup Cognac
  • 2 small shallots, grated to a paste (preferably on a Microplane)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1⁄4 cup crème fraîche
  • 1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  1. Put the peppercorns on a small rimmed baking sheet and crush them with a small heavy skillet; be sure not to bash them. Season each side of the steaks generously with salt, then mop up the crushed peppercorns with both sides of the steaks.
  2. Heat a large heavy stainless steel skillet over high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet. When the oil is smoking hot, carefully place the steaks in the skillet, laying them down away from you (so that if any hot fat splatters, it splatters away from you). Let the steaks cook until the underside is nicely browned and they don’t resist when you try to f lip them, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook on the second side until well browned, another 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the steaks onto their fat edges and brown them until the fat is nice and crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer the steaks to a serving dish or dinner plates and let them rest while you make the sauce.
  3. Pour off and discard all but a very thin layer of fat from the skillet. Take the skillet off the heat and add the Cognac. Carefully return the skillet to the heat—the alcohol should immediately burst into f lames (not a bad thing!); if it doesn’t, ignite the Cognac with a long match or lighter. Once the flames have subsided, lower the heat to medium, add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until the raw shallot aroma disappears, about a minute. Whisk in the mustard, crème fraîche, lemon juice and water. Season the sauce to taste with salt, and add more water if you prefer a looser consistency. Remove from the heat.
  4. Whisk half the parsley into the sauce and sprinkle the steaks with the remaining parsley. Season each steak with a pinch more salt and scatter the lemon zest evenly on top. Spoon the sauce over the steaks and serve immediately.

Chef Tips from Alex Guarnaschelli:


When making a pan sauce, acid is boss over cookware. You can use cast-iron for the steak, but not for the sauce. Nonstick pans for steak? No way.


Crush them with a small heavy skillet (don’t bash them): Focus your weight in the middle of the pan, and push down and forward. Imagine you’re smearing peanut butter on toast. Focus some love on the areas that didn’t get too crushed. Then use the steaks to mop up the remaining peppercorns as if you’re sponging down a counter.


When the crust is terrific and browned and it releases itself—these are built-in visual indicators that tell you the steak is ready to flip. If you notice a spot that isn’t too browned, tilt the pan so all the fat collects at the bottom and use a spoon to scoop up the fat and baste that spot—go right over that spot as if you’re filling in a blank.


Evaluate how much fat you have in the pan. You might need to pour some off—you don’t want your sauce to just taste like fat. As chef Larry Forgione told me twenty-some years ago, you can always put it back in, but you can’t take it out. Also, the more hot grease in your sauce, the more likely it is to separate. To thicken the sauce, add grated shallots, which give flavor and vegetal body to the sauce. Mustard is a natural thickener too.


Take the pan off the heat to add the alcohol, then put it back on the flame—you don’t want to risk getting flames rising up into the bottle or anything superscary like that.


Add a bit of parsley. You always need a little acid and a little grass. My biggest advice on finishing dishes, though, is to Coco Chanel your food: Take one or two things out before the dish leaves the kitchen. Less is more.

Reprinted from Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen. Courtesy of Ecco

1180 episodes