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Bison au Poivre with Green Peppercorn Cream Sauce

Make this steak house staple with a fancy french name to show your favorite mother you love her.

A quick pepper lesson first:

All varieties (colors) of peppercorns, with the exception of pink and Sichuan peppercorns, are the fruit of the Black Pepper Vine. Much like bell peppers, the different color varieties come from harvesting at various stages of maturity. Green peppercorns are the youngest and considered under-ripened. Red peppercorns are ripened fully with the husks left intact where white peppercorns have had the ripened husked removed. Black peppercorns are fully ripened with the red husks dried to black.

Unlike salt, pepper is not a flavor enhancer. It is a spice that adds flavor to a dish. It is full of volatile flavor compounds that can change throughout the cooking process. That's a long way of saying that pepper can burn and become bitter. Unless you want pepper to be at the star of the flavor profile of a dish (like this one), you want to cook it gently to protect its aromatic, floral flavor.

Now that we got that out of the way, lets cook some pepper steak.

Serves: 2; can scale recipe for more people
Prep: 10 min
Cook: 30 min
T = Tablespoon
t = teaspoon 

2 BRD Bison Filet; can substitute for any steak really.
Kosher Salt
3 T high temp oil; avocado, grape seed, vegetable, tallow, etc.
3 T whole peppercorns; black will work fine but if you have one of those jars of mixed peppercorns stashed away somewhere, use those. 

1 shallot; minced
1 T grass fed butter
2 T green peppercorns; can usually be found near the capers.
2 T cognac; bourbon will also work.
1/2 cup BRD Beef Broth
1/2 cup heavy cream; plain yogurt or sour cream will also work but you will need to mix in a T of cornstarch, arrowroot or AP flour to keep it from curdling from the heat.
Salt as needed 

Pairing knife
Chef’s knife
Cutting board
Mortar & pestle or hammer & towel
Fine mesh strainer
Heavy cast iron or stainless steel pan with lid
1 Plate
Torch lighter
Fire extinguisher — you should have one of these in your kitchen already. 

Prep Steaks

  • Remove filets from the package and dry well. Let rest on a plate for about 15 mins. Salt well and rest for another 15 min or until they get to room temperature.
  • While steaks are sitting, crush your peppercorns in the mortal & pestle. You want them to be just cracked; bigger than the coarsest setting on most pepper mills. If you don't have a mortar & pestle, pour them into a neat pile on your cutting board and cover with a dish towel, then pound them a few times with a hammer or that big heavy pan you're about to cook your steak in.
  • Preheat your pan over medium heat.
  • Gather crushed peppercorns into the fine mesh strainer and shake to get rid of as much dust and other super small pieces as possible as it will burn during searing and become bitter.
  • Spread crushed peppercorns evenly across a plate and press the top of each steak down into them. The moisture on the steak that was pulled out by salting early will help them adhere.

Prep Pan Sauce

  • Preheat your oven to its lowest temperature, usually between 150℉ and 170℉. Once it reaches temperature, turn it off. 
  • Scoop green peppercorns out into the mesh strainer, draining away the brine. If you couldn't find green peppercorns, you can use more of the pepper mix from above, or if you want to mix up the flavor profile a bit, I’m sure capers will work fine. Set aside.
  • Measure out your cognac — giving it a taste to make sure it’s still fresh —  then broth and cream; mixing in the starch if using a cream alternative. Set aside.
  • Peel and mince shallot. Set aside.
  • Have your lighter, lid and whisk next to all of this.

Sear Steak

  • In your preheated pan, add the high temp cooking oil and allow to heat up. Normally, seeing faint smoke from the pan is the indicator that it’s hot enough, but because we are using lots of pepper that can burn easily, that is too hot. To check if it’s ready, tilt the pan to one side, allowing the oil to flow to one side. If you see wavy lines in the oil, it's ready. If it starts to smoke, remove from heat and allow to cool a bit. It if full-on smokes, open a window and start over.
  • Once heated, place steaks in the pan, peppered side down, applying even pressure across the steak to help the pepper adhere to the steak and form a nice crust. Cook for 3-4 mins, or until the pepper forms a firm crust. If it starts to blacken, flip immediately.
  • Cook for an additional 3-4 mins, or until the internal temperature reaches 130℉ for medium rare.
  • Remove steaks to a plate and put in the warmed oven to rest, along with the plates you will be serving on. A warm plate is a better surface to place a warm sauce, helping it maintain it’s consistency that you lovingly crafted.

Build Pan Sauce

  • Pour out any remaining cooking oil but don’t wipe the pan clean. Return to medium heat and allow to warm back up.
  • Add butter and allow to melt. Then add in the shallots, stirring to coat them well in butter and to remove any fond from the bottom of the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes until they become translucent. If they start to brown, remove from heat, lower temperature and return to heat.
  • Now the fun part. Move pan away from heat and add cognac. Flambé by igniting the alcohol in the cognac using your lighter. Shake the pan gently to keep things moving. When the flame subsides in a few seconds, return to heat and reduce for a minute or two. Some people will tilt the pan over their heat source to ignite the booze instead of using a lighter. While this earns street cred, it’s unnecessary and can be considered unsafe in a home kitchen. Just use the lighter. Have the pan lid close by to extinguish any flames that become unruly. Use a fire extinguisher for bigger problems. NEVER USE WATER TO PUT OUT KITCHEN FIRES.
  • With your pan back over the heat, add the broth and allow to reduce for 1-2 mins while loosening up any remaining bits of fond, then add the green peppercorns.
  • Add the cream or cream substitute and whisk, making sure everything is well combined. Reduce for 1-2 minutes then remove from heat and allow to thicken.

Plate & Serve

  • Check the consistency by stirring with a spoon. If it evenly coats the back of the spoon, it’s ready to go. If it still too thin, put it back over medium heat, stirring until thickened. Shouldn’t be too long. Taste for salt and add as needed.
  • Remove warm plates from the oven and using the spoon, pour one spoonful of sauce along one side of the plate to act as a landing zone for the steak. Using the spoon, pour another pass or two of sauce over the steak, this time getting lots of green peppercorns in the mix.
  • Serve with a roasted vegetable like asparagus or sautéed spinach. Mashed potatoes go well with this steak as does a mixed green salad for a lighter option. 

Find yourself a bold Cabernet Sauvignon and a bar of high quality 70% dark chocolate to round out this wonderful Mother’s Day meal.


Where to buy: Farmer's Markets and Online