going green: (my) steak au poivre vert on a pillow of fresh puréed fennel
To most people, the phrase “going green” conjures up images of electric cars and recycling. Not me. I think of food. Green food. This week in particular the “going green” slogan left me dreamily thinking of green peppercorns and the French bistro classic steak au poivre vert, a pan-seared steak covered with a creamy, brandy-infused reduction sauce loaded with green peppercorns. It was one of the very first dishes I discovered my first time in Paris over twenty-something years ago (sigh). It was divine and I have enjoyed this classic (both eating it and teaching others how to make it) throughout the years.
This week I was inspired to “go green” with this French classic and create a leaner, simple dish that you can duplicate at home in less than 30 minutes, without sacrificing that peppery-brandy flavor and using various green ingredients. The thought resulted in this week’s simple pleasure: (my) steak au poivre vert with puréed fennel. Get ready, this week we are going green in a whole new way and it is delicious.
classic steak au poivre vert
The classic steak au poivre vert consists of three things:
- an average cut of meat, usually from the rump of the cow, pan-seared and finished in the oven;
- a rich sauce consisting of brandy, fresh green peppercorns, shallots, garlic, butter, and heavy cream, generously poured over the steak; and
- a side of pommes frites (deep fried potatoes) or pommes purée (mashed potatoes) to absorb the sauce.
In sum, it is oil, animal fat, and butter on top of more fat (heavy cream). In culinary school, everyone knew the mantra “fat is flavor” and while it is true, this dish in its classic form is everything your cardiologist tells you to avoid.
my steak au poivre vert
My modification of this dish is true to both my California roots and my time in France. The emphasis is on the quality of the few fresh (green) ingredients and a simple preparation resulting in a light taste.
Rather than using any average cut of beef, I prefer to use a quality cut of beef (tenderloin, new york, ribeye or hanger) that is organic and grass-fed. The peppercorn crust mimics the flavor profile of the classic poivre vert sauce (peppery with a kick of brandy) but eliminates the time required for a reduction sauce and the unhealthy, heavy elements of its predecessor. The pepper crust is a flavorful, fresh compliment to the tender meat, but not the primary source for the dish’s flavor.
A quick note on peppercorns (because I am often asked about green peppercorns in class). Peppercorns are the berries from the pepper plant. The berries come in four colors: green, pink/red, and brown/black. The difference in color is due to when they are picked (the green are the youngest) rather than coming from different plants. White peppercorns are white because the husk is removed.
Green peppercorns are less pungent than black peppercorns and come fresh (packed in a brine) or dried. The classic bistro sauce uses the brine-soaked peppercorns. This one uses dried. It is best to buy whole peppercorns and crush them yourself because once peppercorns are ground they quickly loose their flavor.
Using a green vegetable instead of a white starchy one is consistent with our “going green” theme. I have used this fennel purée as an alternative to potatoes throughout the years and it is always one of the first things to disappear.
Fennel pairs well with this steak because it is a cooling contrast to the peppery crust. Puréed, fennel has a creamy consistency so it makes a wonderful substitution for potatoes. Using olive oil (again, think green!) instead of butter or cream keeps this dish healthy and light.
You can prepare this week’s simple pleasure in less than 30 minutes. I doubt you will have any left-overs to “recycle”; however, it you do, sliced, the steak makes a great sandwich.
Mangez bien, vivez bien et bon appétit ! (eat well, live well and enjoy)