One of the very few recipes I do with flambe is with brandy, steak, and cream. This new recipe is based on the traditional French technique, but introduces new flavors: maple syrup and a distinctive spiciness. By adding a hint of ground fennel to black peppercorns, they become pretty interesting together. The idea for this partnership I learned from thirschfeld when I was testing his great swordfish recipe. So here I am using it with beef. A filet mignon or sirloin will work best here. This is a very peppery steak, so feel free to cut down on its amount if you do not love pepper. —Sagegreen
1 1/2 teaspoons
black peppercorns, freshly milled, to taste
fennel seed, freshly ground
sea salt, to taste
grassfed beef sirloin or mignon, divided into 2 portions, about an inch thick
unsalted premium butter
dry white wine
white basalmic vinegar (cider or champagne vinegar will also do)
shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
mushrooms, (porcini or other boletus mushrooms soaked in 2 tbl. white wine to reconstitute)
fennel bulb, thinly sliced
fresh thyme leaves, no stems
paper thin slices of one half Meyer lemon, seeds removed
Mix the peppercorns and fennel together in a shallow dish as long as your steaks. Pat the the steaks dry with paper towels. Press the steaks down in the pepper mix on both the top and bottom sides. Then let them rest for a few minutes. I don't like to add the salt yet because it draws out the juices, and the steaks need to be dry for searing.
Heat the butter in a heavy bottom saute pan. Sear the steaks over medium high heat for about 3-4 minutes per side (or 5-6 minutes if you like your steak medium well done). Reduce the heat to low. Season with the salt. Splash in the wine and vinegar; cook for another minute or so.
Warm the brandy slightly by placing in a small cup immersed in hot water. Pour the warmed brandy over the steaks. Leaning away from the pan (with all other combustibles cleared well away from your stove), flambe with a long kitchen or fireplace match. When the flames burn off, add the shallot slices, wine-soaked mushrooms (I include the wine, too), fennel, thyme leaves, and lemon slices. Pour the cream into the pan and stir, cooking for about a minute. You may want to check to see that your steaks are cooked to your desired degree of doneness with a discreet tiny cut to the middle, but take care not to let any inner juices escape. When perfectly browned on the outside and still pink in the middle, remove the steaks to a platter to let them rest.
Stir in the maple syrup to the pan to finish cooking the sauce. Cook for 1 minute. To serve, spoon the sauce with shallots, mushrooms, fennel, and lemons over the steaks. Garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley. Serve with mashed potatoes or grits.