NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

December 26, 2012

Pepper steak is a festive choice

A perfect quick dinner for the holiday season is steak au poivre, French for steak with pepper sauce. I used a small piece of beef tenderloin, but any other quick-cooking steak — strip, rib-eye, skirt or flank — can be used.

The accompanying pepper and mushroom sauce uses shallots, a mild-flavored member of the onion family. Shallots break down as they cook, making a smoother sauce than their onion cousins. Red or white onions could be substituted.

The potatoes only take a few minutes in a microwave.

WINE SUGGESTION:

Merlot, which can be nicely rich and peppery itself, would make a fine match.

HELPFUL HINTS:

The quickest way to wash watercress is to place it head first into a bowl of water. Leave for a minute, then lift out and shake dry.

Cracked pepper can be found in the spice section of the supermarket.

COUNTDOWN:

Make potatoes

Make steak

SHOPPING LIST:

To buy: 1 pound red potatoes, 1 bottle crushed rosemary, 1 bunch watercress, ¾ pound beef tenderloin (or strip steak, rib eye, flank steak, skirt steak), 2 medium-size shallots, 1 jar cracked pepper, ¼ pound sliced button mushrooms, 1 small carton light cream and 1 can olive oil spray.

Staples: Brandy, minced garlic, salt and peppercorns.

STEAK AU POIVRE (STEAK WITH PEPPER AND MUSHROOM SAUCE)

Serves: 2

4 cups watercress, washed and large stems discarded

Olive oil spray

1/2 tablespoon cracked pepper

3/4 pound beef tenderloin, fat removed

2 medium-size shallots, chopped (¼ cup)

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 pound sliced button mushrooms, (1 ½ cups)

2 tablespoons brandy

2 tablespoons light cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Divide watercress between two dinner plates and set aside.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and spray with olive oil. Press cracked pepper onto both sides of steak and add to skillet. Brown 2 minutes; turn and brown the second side 2 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Lower heat to medium and add shallots, garlic and mushrooms. Saute 2 minutes. Return steak and cook until done, 5 minutes for 3-inch thick tenderloin (3 minutes for thinner flank steak). A thermometer should read 145 degrees for medium rare, 160 degrees for medium.

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