The following recipe is wonderful. I learned how to make this dish back in the early 1980’s at a restaurant in Wilmington DE, named Leounes Mansion®. The chef was Tony Leounes and his version of this dish is totally unlike any found in any other restaurant I ever visited, anywhere in the world.
Typically steak au poivre simply means a grilled steak, using a charcoal grill or a broiler, which is prepared and served medium to medium rare and covered in a brown sauce or gravy loaded with peppercorns. Thus, there is a strong but very good flavor from the pepper, hence the French name Au Poivre meaning "with pepper."
Tony’s version replaced the brown sauce/gravy and the whole peppercorns with a combination of bleu cheese, cracked peppercorns and butter. That topping is prepared independently before the steak is grilled and it is slathered about ¼ inch thick on the top of the steak after grilling. Tony then used a small amount of a high proof brandy, which he poured over the dish and flamed. Wow, was it great!
I found the dish easy to copy and I had a lot of fun serving it to family and good friends. High compliments were dependably offered. Later I learned that Tony’s version was just as good without the brandy, but in that situation I would put the coated steak under a hot broiler just long enough to partially melt the bleu cheese and butter and peppercorn mix.
Recently I have improved this dish yet again. I use bacon wrapped filet mignon, charcoal grill it to a medium rare level of doneness and then the remainder of the recipe is the same. As you might guess, the use of the bacon imparts yet another great flavor to that of the bleu cheese and cracked peppercorns.
4, 12 ounce filets of beef about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inches thick
8 oz. bleu cheese softened to room temperature
1/3 stick of butter softened to room temperature
¼ cup of black peppercorns, cracked
4 slices of thick sliced bacon
Medium size charcoal grill … like the domed Weber® Kettle grills.
Charcoal briquets sufficient to fill the grill so that the hot briquets are four inches below the grate on which the steaks/filets will be grilled.
Charcoal lighter fluid.
Good quality spatula for turning the steaks/filets during grilling.
An instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the steaks/filets during grilling.
Prepare the softened blue cheese, softened butter and cracked peppercorn mixture by mixing all three ingredients manually but thoroughly in a small bowl. Set aside. Note: I usually put the whole peppercorns in a Ziploc® freezer bag first and crack or smash them with a flat wooden mallet before adding them to the other ingredients of the mixture.
Pre-fry the bacon on low heat to render out bacon fat, but not enough to make it crisp, for it needs to be sufficiently flexible to wrap around the steaks as described next. Let the bacon drain and cool for a few minutes on a paper towel.
Prepare the steaks/filets by wrapping each in bacon secured to the perimeter of the meat with toothpicks. Set aside and allow the steaks/filets to come to room temperature.
Prepare the charcoal grill and light the charcoal. Do not cook the meat until the briquets have been completely gray for 10 minutes, to cook off any residual charcoal lighter, which could adversely flavor the grilled meat. Do not cover the grill while grilling unless the ambient temperature is below 50ºF. One exception is if you are using wood chips in the grill to smoke the meat during grilling. If you choose to or have to cover the grill be certain the lower and dome vents are wide open.
Turn on your oven broiler to high to preheat the broiler. Warm a small meat platter on a very low rack during the preheating.
Put the prepared meat on the open grill and cook uncovered (unless the weather is cold or you are smoking the meat as discussed above) initially for five minutes on each side. You may have to move the meat once or twice during initial grilling to avoid excessive flaming from melted bacon fat.
Check the internal temperature of the meat with the instant read thermometer after the initial grilling. When it is 126 to 127 degrees F the steaks are done, for the internal temperature will continue to rise for a few minutes to the perfect temperature of 130 degrees F, which is medium rare. If you want medium instead of medium rare then remove the steaks when the internal temperature is 132 to 133 degrees F. If you want well done then remove the steaks when the internal temperature is 140 degrees F.
In any event, if additional grilling is necessary to arrive at the proper internal temperature, continue grilling, one minute per side, as necessary, until the desired internal temperature is obtained. Do that by checking the internal temperature each minute just before turning the meat to the other side. Remove the grilled meat to the pre-warmed small meat platter and proceed as follows:
Use a simple kitchen knife to spread the bleu cheese, butter and cracked peppercorn mixture on to the top of each piece of meat, about ¼ inch thick.
Place the platter with the coated meat into the oven on a rack about 5 to 6 inches below the hot broiler heating element. Slide the oven rack and platter out after 30 seconds of broiling and see if the cheese and butter mixture is melting. If so, the dish is done. Otherwise broil for an additional 30 seconds. Repeat as necessary.
Serve hot. Note that no salt was used in this recipe. The bacon provided some salt as did the bleu cheese and each guest will further season the meat to suit their preference.
Given the focus on preparing the steak au poivre it is best to have all other meal items prepared first and on the table ready to eat before the coated steak is even grilled, else the steak will likely not be at optimum serving temperature when it is eaten. That would be a tragedy, so plan ahead.
My grandmother Cora insisted on having hot food served very hot. She was right. Folks who let their hot food lose heat before serving it just don’t get it. Great becomes ho hum.