The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet, 340 pp.
by Pierre Franey
Fawcett Columbine, New York, 1979
Cooking on page 232
I’ve owned this cookbook for yonks. I bought it when I was on a family visit to the USA in the 1980s. I think that was the trip when I found 12 or so wonderful cookbooks at a great second-hand bookshop on 50th and Dodge Street in Omaha, Nebraska. I hope it’s still there because I’ll be back to inspect later this year.
I found an amazing collection of bargains there. This one has $4.50 written on the inside front cover. With all recipes being over-and-out within 60 minutes, I have cooked from this book often in the past. I can also recommend a fantastic fish recipe on page 96—yes, I’ll try to post that some day as a rogue choice, because 96 is 3 x 32.
There are also interesting recipes on pages 32 and 132—one for chicken and one for oysters. I plan to go back and make them too, but today the offering on page 232 tempted me. I had the ingredients on hand and hungry people to feed, so I made pepper steaks.
Recipe—Steaks au poivre
4 boneless shell steaks, about 10 ounces each
salt to taste
1 tablespoon peppercorns
3 tablespoons peanut, vegetable or corn oil
5 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
Sprinkle the steaks with salt.
Using a mallet or the bottom of a heavy saucepan, crush the peppercorns but not too finely. Sprinkle the steaks with equal amounts of pepper on both sides. Press down with the hands to help the peppercorns adhere to the meat.
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and when it is hot and almost smoking, add the steaks. Cook about 3 minutes and turn. Cook about 2 minutes or longer, if you wish your steaks well-done, and remove to a warm platter.
Pour the fat from the skillet and add 2 teaspoons of butter. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until wilted. Add the wine and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until wine has almost totally reduced. Add the cream and cook over high heat for about 1 minute. Swirl in the remaining butter and pour the sauce over the steaks.
Yield: Four servings.
How it played out
Australia doesn’t have a cut of meat called a shell steak and, if I’ve ever known it, I’ve long since forgotten what it is. I used four thick-ish porterhouse steaks instead, each about 7 ounces.
My only real change was in relation to the heavy cream. I had a 1/3 cup of double cream that was at its use-by date, so I polished that off, which was more than enough. The cooking time was spot-on, and gave a lovely just-beyond-rare result. Served with sautéed onions and mushrooms, steamed broccoli and a green salad.
No doubt about it, steaks made this way are delicious, but given the amount of fat involved, I consider this a once-in-a-while dish. Use the best cut of meat you can afford, and skip the recipe if you prefer your steak well-done.
P.S. Be sure to check out my travel blog.