"Did you ever see the customers in health food stores? They are pale, skinny people who look half dead. In a steak house you see robust, ruddy people. They're dying, of course, but they look terrific."
~ Bill Cosby
I discovered this dish in the 1980's at a restaurant in Mystic called J.P. Daniels. The restaurant is no longer there, but the memory of the meal lingers, it was that good.
I generally make it for our New Year's Day meal, since it is also Scott's birthday and he LOVES it. Also doesn't hurt that it is pretty easy so it can be pulled off even if you had a little too much fun on New Year's Eve (wink, wink).
A few notes on peppercorns. My favorite are the green, and I've used them both packed in oil and dried, but cannot always find them. Dried white peppercorns also work great with the dish, but again, can be elusive. Tonight I used a mixture of black, red and green that are meant for use in a pepper mill, and they worked great, it just made the dish a bit hotter in terms of spice. It is important to follow the recipe and crush the peppercorns rather than grind them because it effects the crust and how they release their flavor.
Filet Mignon au Poivre
3 tablespoons green peppercorns (if you can find them, otherwise, white, black or a mix is fine)
4 (3/4 to 1-inch-thick) filet mignon steaks (about 8 ounces each)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup minced shallots
2/3 cup Cognac
1 cup heavy cream
4 toast points (optional)
4 toast points (optional)
Place peppercorns in a sealed plastic bag, put on a cutting board and smash them with a meat mallet, bottom of a heavy skillet, or hammer.
Pat steaks dry. Press pepper onto both cut sides of steaks and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Season steaks with salt. Heat oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a 10 - 12 inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat. Add steaks and cook about 5-6 minutes or using tongs, check to see if the crust has formed, dark brown, but not burnt. Turn steaks and repeat, being careful not to overcook. They should be springy to the touch. Cut one open to check, if you need to. They should still be dark pink in the middle. Remove to a baking dish with sides and keep warm in the oven. If you have particularly thick steaks and they seem to red, or raw in the middle, at this point, you can throw them on the gas grill for a couple minutes to finish them. I've done that when I've had really thick steaks and they still come out good, it doesn't ruin the crust.
Keep in mind that they will continue to cook for a few minutes even after you remove them from the heat source, so I always shoot for a tiny bit underdone so they will keep cooking a little while I make the sauce.
Add remaining two tablespoons of butter and minced shallots to the skillet and cook over medium heat until shallots are softened. Add Cognac and boil down until it becomes a glaze, about 2-3 minutes. Add cream and boil down, stirring, until it is reduced by half, another 3-5 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
These are nice served on toast points to soak up the sauce. Serves 4.