The Manliest Dinner: Steak au Poivre and Garlic Fries

Objectively speaking, this was definitely the manliest meal I think I’ve ever cooked. Beef, potatoes, and fire. Sure, it also had a dollop of Dijon, and some cute little diced up shallots. And parsley. I will admit, the parsley lowers the manly rating a little bit. But for a guy who just wants to make some totally manly man food for a nice romantic dinner with his boyfriend, this totally takes the cake. (Also there was cake. Cake Batter ice cream. For dessert.)

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I actually started with the recipe for the fries, which I came across online and instantly fell in love with. I made a few modifications (as I tend to do) and ended up with possibly the second-best taters I’ve ever had, just behind the Mascarpone and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes that are my standard for Thanksgiving. Certainly these were the best fries, and I am thinking of trying it again with home-style-cut potatoes for a really easy side dish. I added Dijon as a last minute inspiration, and I think it helped both to adhere the bits of garlic to the fries, as well as mellow out any potential oiliness. Now, for a main to go along with, my lovely dinner guest was actually the one to suggest steak au poivre.

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I had never cooked a steak stovetop, and had also never had an opportunity to light a pan on fire, so this seemed like an ideal opportunity to do both. The result was epically good: a gorgeous sear on the outside, absolutely melting tender on the inside. The peppercorns were neither too…peppery, or too crunchy, like I was a little worried about. Bashing them into submission with the bottom of my mortar did the trick — which I tried after I found out that bashing them with a pestle in the mortar was, frankly, never ever ever going to work. Let’s hear it for the miracle of plastic baggies + heavy things, shall we?

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I will say that lighting a pan on fire was exactly as fun as I suspected it would be. However: if you’re using a cast iron skillet like I was, remember that if the recipe tells you to “shake the pan vigorously until the flames subside,” it is significantly more difficult with a pan that weighs 20 pounds. The effort was worth it, though; cast iron is hands down my favorite surface to use if I’m trying to get a beautiful crust on something, and there is nothing that beats it for even heat. You may just want to stretch a little before all that vigorous exercise. Besides, I said this was the manliest dinner, didn’t I? Be tough! And remember that you too can have an ice cream sundae when the work is all over.

Steak au poivre

2 6-to-8 oz tenderloin or filets, about an inch thick
3 tbsp black peppercorns, crushed
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp high-heat oil, like peanut
1 shallot, diced
1/3 c cognac or brandy
1/3 c heavy cream
salt

  1. Take the steaks out of the fridge to rest for a half hour or so before cooking. When you’re ready to go, salt both sides and then press both sides into the peppercorns for an even crust.
  2. Melt one tbsp of the butter and the oil in a pan over high heat, and when it starts to turn golden, add the steaks. Four minutes on each side should net you a lovely medium rare. When you flip the steaks, turn the heat down to medium. If they stick to the pan a little when you go to flip them, let them sizzle for another couple seconds until they can come away clean.
  3. After the second side has cooked, pull the steaks out of the pan and set aside, covered with foil.
  4. Pour the excess fat out of the pan, and put in a fresh tbsp of butter. Add the shallot and stir for a minute or two until they’re soft.
  5. If you have a gas stove, turn off the flame entirely at this point: safety safety safety! and add the cognac. Holding a match above the pan should be enough to ignite the fumes. Shake the pan vigorously until the flames subside, turn the stove back on to medium, and add the heavy cream. Stir until this thickens, about another minute.
  6. Serve the steak immediately, with a few spoonfuls of the lovely sauce on top.

Garlic Fries
Adapted from Bon Appetit

2.5 lbs potatoes, cut into french-fry-shaped strips
8 cloves of garlic: half chopped fine and half chopped extra-pasty-fine
a few tbsp high-heat oil, like peanut
a handful of parsley, chopped fine
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp olive oil
salt
pepper

  1. Toss the potatoes in a large bowl with enough oil to coat, and season heavily with salt and pepper. Lay out on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with the 4 cloves of chopped garlic. Pop into a 450F oven for 30 minutes.
  2. Every ten minutes, flip the potatoes around. You’ll likely have ones that stick to the bottom, and some torn up fries as you stir, and it will look like everything is going to end in disaster, but do it anyway and I promise at the end something magic happens and they all turn into gorgeous crispy fries.
  3. At the end of 30 minutes, turn the heat up to 550 and let continue to roast for five more minutes, or until you start to see lovely brown bits forming. Pull from the oven and tumble the fries into a pile to cool just slightly.
  4. Meanwhile, in the same bowl you tossed the potatoes in to start, add the parsley, the really finely-chopped garlic, Dijon, olive oil, and more salt and pepper. Whisk this together briskly.
  5. Pop the fries back into this bowl and toss to coat completely. Serve immediately, preferably alongside a lovely steak au poivre that someone has just made.
  6. In Uncategorized, garlic, potatoes, steak

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