Crowley’s Bifteck au Poivre

A flaming skillet

While doing his Paris working, Aleister Crowley enjoyed beefsteak at a number of meals. He did not always record how the steaks were prepared, however. Prior blogs have discussed Bifteck Marchand de Vin, Sirloin with Paris Butter,and Tournedos Rossini.

Bifteck au Poivre (Steak with Pepper) is yet another steak recipe that might have been enjoyed by the Prophet. About French Food tells us, “A classic in every French cookbook, Steak au Poivre is the perfect main course for a romantic meal.”

Bifteck au Poivre (Steak with Pepper)

A flaming skillet4 tenderloin steaks, 6 to 8 ounces each, no more than 1 1/2 inches thick
Coarse salt
2 tbs whole peppercorns
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 cup Cognac, plus 1 teaspoon
1 cup heavy cream

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator no less than 30 minutes and no more than 1 hour before cooking. Rub with salt.

Crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle. You can use a pepper mill, but it won’t have quite the right texture. Spread peppercorns evenly on a plate, then press the steak into the pepper on both sides. It should coat the surface.

Melt the butter and olive oil together in a skillet over medium heat. As soon as the butter and oil begin to turn golden and smoke, gently place the steaks in the pan. For medium rare, cook for 4 minutes on each side. When the steaks are done, put them on a plate/platter, tent with foil and set aside. Pour off the excess fat but do not wipe or scrape the pan clean.

With the pan removed from the heat, pour 1/3 cup Cognac to the pan and carefully ignite the alcohol with a long match or firestick. Gently shake pan until the flames die. Return the pan to medium heat and add cream. Bring mixture to a boil and whisk until sauce coats the back of a spoon, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the teaspoon of Cognac and season to taste with salt. Put the steaks back into the pan, spoon the sauce over them, then serve.


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