Serve This Pepper-Crusted Steak to Company (or, Better, Save It For Yourself)

October 15, 2016

Growing up in Italy, steak was inevitably served grilled with olive oil and lemon as an easy preparation perfect for summertime outdoor dining.

But as summer recedes and we head indoors, I like a richer, more substantial preparation of my steak, and so I start turning my mind towards the French way with food, where things are built up and more likely to be sauced.

In this recipe, pepper-crusted steak is seared, sliced, and served over braised endives and alongside a horseradish crème fraîche. Sounds complicated, but once the endive is cooked and the steak is seared off and rested, it’s a quick dish to put together, suitable for a special dinner or just a very comforting Sunday night meal, and it tastes and looks fancier than it actually is.

Let's break down the components from the plate up:

The Endive

Endive, that ubiquitous crunchy and slightly bitter white chicory, is delicious cooked, especially when you start by browning one side of it to caramelize and sweeten the vegetable. After I sear the endive on the stove, I mellow it by cooking it slowly in the oven with liquid: Chicken stock, of course, builds up the flavor and richness, but if I don’t have it on hand, I just used a little seasoned water. I also add a little orange juice, or sometimes even cider, because I love the sweetness that contrasts the bitterness of the endive.

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In the end, I’m looking for a softly collapsed, tender vegetable that will pair nicely with the seared steak.

The Horseradish Cream

The sharpness of the horseradish grated freshly, so that all its heat explodes, brings a rush of flavor to the rich, creamy, slightly sour crème fraîche.

Horseradish, which I think of as decidedly not Italian, is a favorite winter ingredient of mine. I grate it fresh to add to mashed potatoes or creamy salad dressings, or I scatter it over icy-cold oysters. Without the preserving effects of the vinegar added to store-bought horseradish, the flavor dissipates quickly, so it’s always best to use it right before you're ready to eat. But in the end, it takes only seconds to grate the peeled root on a Microplane as the last step to preparing your meal.

The Steak

For home cooking steak in a cast-iron pan, I always like to use a rib eye: The fat to lean ratio works well in the pan (thin cuts like skirt or flank steak cuts are better suited to grilling). I prefer to cook a rib eye on the bone, as I believe the bone adds flavor (really, I like everything cooked on the bone better, from fish to chicken to steak, for that very reason). Marinating the steak with lashings of black pepper helps add to the overall hotness of the dish.

I cook my steak the way I was taught in Italy, where the meat is seasoned with salt only after it’s seared off, so that the salt melts into the hot, crispy outside of the steak, seasoning it without drawing out moisture and flavor before it’s been cooked.

What do you make when you're willing to put in a little extra effort? Tell us in the comments!

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chef/owner of Nina June Restaurant,