Steak #2: Stovetop with Mushrooms & Sauce

The Big Idea came my favorite cookbook, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I was looking for a stovetop steak, and his recipe for Steak au Poivre (steak with black pepper and a red wine sauce) looked promising.

The Steak: For starters, I covered the steak with coarsely ground black pepper right out of the fridge and let it sit for about an hour while I did other things, like make chicken and vegetables for lunch tomorrow and attend to the side dish (below).Ingredients for Steak #2

When the steak was approaching room temperature (which I’m told is ideal, but beyond my patience level this evening), I put about ¾ of an inch of butter in an 8 inch cast iron and let it get nice and foamy. Then I plopped in the peppery steak and cooked it for 3-4 minutes per side on medium-high. I checked the doneness several times, both by poking it and cutting it. At what appeared to be medium rare, I took it out of the pan and covered it with another plate to rest while I made the sauce.

The Sauce: The sauce was off to a good start already, with the peppery blend of butter and steak juices left in the pan. I fried a diced shallot in them for a couple minutes on medium heat, and then the recipe called for adding Zinfandel and tarragon and then letting it reduce over high heat. I can’t bring myself to open a whole bottle of wine just to use a half-cup of it, so I used a mixture of red wine vinegar and vegetable stock for the liquid. I’m sure the flavor would be much different, and perhaps better with red wine, but this worked fine. It bubbled away quite quickly and I drizzled it over the steak and the side.

Steak au Poivre and Sauteed Mushrooms

Colorful? High in antioxidants? No. Delicious? Yes.

Side Dish: I had some crimini mushrooms in the fridge and some leftover onions caramelized in butter. Steak and mushrooms is a classic combination, right? I sauteed them together in a little extra butter for good measure.

The Verdict: While brown sauce on brown steak with brown mushrooms cooked with brown onions didn’t make for the most attractive plate, this was delicious! The pepper and the sauce came together for a bright taste to go with the nice meaty steak.

Notes for Next Time

  • This was much better cooked (i.e. rarer) than Steak #1, but still just a little more done than I’d like. Don’t be scared to under-cook it! I will continue cutting into the steaks to test my judgment as it improves.
  • Consider a non-brown side dish for the next steak. Squash? Kale?
  • I very rarely make sauces, but this one was great! It seems like a pretty basic easy formula – cook meat in fat, remove meat, add onion/garlic to fat, add liquid and herb, reduce. I resolve to try this on future steaks and also just with future meals, and to learn more about sauces.


  • What are the key differences between stovetop steaks and grilled steaks?
  • What are other combinations for delicious and easy pan sauces? What are other kinds of sauces? Should I do a Sixteen Sauces series?

What guidance do you have for me on steaks and sauces? And what should I do with Steak #3? Stay tuned for that and some fun with fruit, coming soon to Notes for Next Year.

This is part of the Sixteen Steaks series, in which Welcome to the Sixteen Steaks project, in which I try different ways of cooking sixteen steaks I won in a charity auction, and hopefully, become really good at in the process. You can read the rest of the series here.


2 responses to “Steak #2: Stovetop with Mushrooms & Sauce

  1. YES!! Stovestop steak gets my vote all the way! Good job letting it rest–taking it off the stove when it seems uncomfortably under-done and then letting it rest for an adequate amount of time is a key challenge–I’ll be curious what your optimal timing is as you continue. My advice is try the red wine in the sauce, I bet it’ll change it. And then have a glass with dinner. Yay Maggie!

    • Thanks! Still working on the perfect doneness, and yes, I think you’re right that real red wine would be the way to go. Maybe I’ll get some Three Buck Chuch for these occasions next time I’m at Trader Joe’s.

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