Secrets to success
Start by coating a flavorful steak with plenty of cracked black pepper (poivre), cook it until well browned, and drizzle it with a rich Cognac pan sauce—it’s that simple. Here’s how to get the best flavor:
The pepper: Large, coarse pieces of pepper are better than fine ones, as they offer texture and crunch without overpowering the dish—the finer the pepper, the more pungent its flavor.
The meat: The full flavor and slight chew of top loin (also known as New York strip steak) is perfect for this dish. Pricey filet mignon offers tender texture but lacks some of the flavor.
The technique: Sear the steaks in a very hot skillet first to get a rich, brown crust; then finish them in the oven to cook the meat evenly and keep it juicy.
The pan: A heavy-duty frying pan will do the best job of searing the steaks evenly. A well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is practically nonstick and produces a superior brown crust, but a stainless-steel pan will do a fine job, too.