Ed’s twist on the classic French steak au poivre
This is a twist on the classic French steak au poivre. So often pepper sauce accompanies a fillet steak, which I personally think has little flavour, or at best an expensive sirloin, which has more, but why spoil it? Better, I think, to match power sauce with power meat, hence opting for onglet, which hangs from the diaphragm of a cow and was once thought of as offal (but is surely too popular a cut for that now).
The pepper sauce itself isn’t classically French either. Instead of brandy I suggest a dark and nutty oloroso sherry, and I stir creme fraiche into that, finally adding some fruity, flavourful Tellicherry pepper and musty, near cinnamon-like long pepper. It really shows peppercorns off as an ingredient and flavour, rather than a seasoning and happily (or perhaps worryingly), is fiendishly more-ish.
1 tsp long pepper, ground in a pestle and mortar
1 tbsp Tellicherry peppercorns
1 tbsp sunflower oil
400-500g onglet, butterflied by the butcher
75ml oloroso sherry
60g creme fraiche
15g fridge cold butter
Small wedge of lemon
Measure out all the ingredients before you cook as it’s a fast meal, and you’ll need things to hand once you begin.
Tip the long pepper into a bowl. Add the Tellicherry peppercorns and bash them so they’re somewhere between cracked but not fully dusty, then mix with the long pepper.
Find a thick-bottomed frying pan that will fit the onglet comfortably (or cut the steak in two so it does). Place the pan on a medium-high heat, add the sunflower oil and let this heat up for 30 secs. Now lay the onglet in the pan—if it’s the right temperature it should sizzle straight away.
Sprinkle a good pinch of sea salt over the top and cook without turning for 1 min. Then flip the meat and cook for another min, again sprinkling with salt. Flip once more and cook for 45 secs, then add the butter to the pan, letting it foam for 10 secs, before turning the onglet over one final time and cooking for 45 secs more.
Transfer the onglet to a warm plate to rest, leaving the pan on the hob.
Deglaze the pan with the water, then add the sherry and let this bubble away and reduce by half (around 30 secs). NB: If you do this the other way round the alcohol may well set alight, given the heat of the pan.
Add the creme fraiche and keep cooking over a medium-high heat for 30 secs, then drop the cold butter in and whisk into the sauce, letting it bubble away for a final 30-45 secs. Remove from the heat, add all of the pepper and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice. Whisk once more.
Slice the steak on an angle. Sprinkle generously with salt and divide between your two plates. Spoon the peppercorn sauce generously over the plate, and serve with some robust, flavourful salad leaves, such as red chard, rocket or watercress, to help mop up the juices.
Recipe and images: Ed Smith