Cooking with spices. Part 1: Pepper

I thought it might be fun if we chose a spice and post recipes using it. I suspect pepper is the most common spice for people to have in their kitchens. (Aside from salt, of course; but since salt is a mineral some people might not consider is a ‘spice’.) And I happen to like steak au poivre, so why not start with pepper?

Here’s how I’d like this to work: Post a recipe concentrating on one spice; in this case, pepper. When there are other spices, the subject spice should be the dominant one. If this goes well, I or someone else can start a ‘Cooking with spices: Part X: _______’ thread where people post recipes using that spice.

So here’s my pepper recipe. (Actually, I got it off the web a while back; but it’s the one I use.)

Steak au Poivre

4 (3/4- to 1-inch-thick) eight-ounce boneless beef top-loin steaks with all of the fat removed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns or a mixture of black, green, red, and white peppercorns
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup Cognac or other brandy (Cognac is better. Trust me on this.)
3/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 200°F.

Pat the steaks dry and season both sides with kosher salt.

Coarsely crush the peppercorns. Alton Brown uses a couple of heavy pie tins and a mallet. (Put the peppercorns in one tin, cover with the other, and thump with a mallet.) I use a mortar and pestle. Press the crushed peppercorns evenly onto both sides of steaks. A good way to do this is to put the peppercorns onto a plate or into a pie tin and press the steaks onto them.

Heat a heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over moderately high heat until hot, about 3 minutes, then add oil, swirling skillet, and sauté steaks in two batches. Cook for three minutes on each side for medium-rare. (For the love of Og, don’t overcook your beef!)

Wrap the steaks in foil and keep warm in oven while making the sauce.

Pour off the fat from skillet, then add the shallots and half of the butter (2 tablespoons) to skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until shallots are well-browned all over, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add Cognac (use caution; it may ignite) and simmer, stirring, until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cream and any meat juices collected in the foil and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cook over low heat, swirling the skillet until the butter is incorporated. You may want to add just a bit (like half a tablespoon) more Cognac. Or not. Serve the sauce immediately over the steaks. Asparagus spears and boiled red potatoes make nice accompaniments.

Burning Fish
This fish can be found grilled at night on every street corner in Cameroon. Traditionally you would order your fish from the nearest fish mamma, head to the bar for a Guinness or 33, and when your fish was ready they deliver it right to your bar table.

Use a mortar and pestle (or, more traditionally, a slab and round rock) to grind up garlic, fresh parsley, fresh basil and white pepper. Add some ground up Maggi boullian cube (an essential part of any West African meal), key lime juice and oil.

Use this to marinate whole tilapia and grill it over charcoal. Serve with habanero hot sauce, mayonnaise, a few slices of onion and tomato and some fried or boiled plantains.

My contributions to this thread:

Crushed Szechuan peppercorns are awesome.

Anyone who uses store-bought ground black pepper doesn’t know what they are missing. Get some whole peppercorns and crack them yourself! A whole new world of aromas awaits you.

Ditto. Fresh ground pepper adds a whole different flavor to food! It’s nothing like the ground pepper you buy in the box or can. It’s almost like a totally different spice.

Highlight it by using it generously on baked potatoes. Yum!!!

To get all nerdy, Szechuan peppercorns are not related to either pepper or chilis.

The pepper grinder here is filled with a mix of Tillicherry and Malabar peppercorns. Fresh-cracked is the only way to go!

Both Tellicherry and Malabar are premium peppers. I also use Penzey’s five-peppercorn blend, which has black, white, pink and green peppercorns.

I just wanted to post that I really appreciated the OP’s preparation instructions. For me the hardest parts about cooking are the little details that aren’t filled in by most cookbooks (e.g. what to do with the meat you’ve just seared while you’re making the sauce). These timing and technique issues are largely resolved by experience, but if you’re just starting out its nice to have them pointed out.

As I said, I got the recipe off the web. It has turned out well every time. It’s really easy to make, and people love it. :slight_smile:

The one thing about it is the timing. I wear my watch when I cook it to make sure I don’t overcook anything. A three-minute sear on each side of the meat is just right. I find I get a little busy with the sauce. First, you need to cook the Cognac down to a glaze. This can happen pretty quickly toward the end. Then you need to keep an eye on the cream and be ready with the butter (and optional extra dash of Cognac) so that you can put it in at the right time and serve it over the steaks as soon as it’s incorporated. And you don’t want to overcook your asparagus!

On the Cognac: I’ve made this with Cognac, VSOP, and the cheapest brandy I could find. Made with the cheap stuff it lacks body. VSOP is pretty good. But really Cognac is the way to go.

So… Any more recipes using black pepper as the primary spice? ISTM I recall a Chinese dish using copious amounts of black pepper.

Good scrambled eggs can have all sorts of gussified ingredients, but the four basics are eggs, salt, pepper, and fat (butter or pork are my usual choices). It might showcase the pepper as well as any other recipe, given the blandness of the other ingredients.

No recipes, but ground pepper is Og’s gift to beef. Liberal application to burgers, roasts and steaks is recommended. I also like ground pepper on my bacon while it’s frying. And of course, the ultimate use is on both biscuits and gravy and chicken fried steak. A good grind on caprese salad (or anything with tomatoes) is great.

Sausage gravy demands copious amounts of black pepper.

Sausage Gravy

Break up and brown a half-pound of bulk sausage (I like Jimmy Dean, personally). Remove the sausage to a paper-towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. Add a little vegetable oil to the remaining fat. Gradually add 3 to 4 tablespoons flour, stirring constantly (IOW make a roux). Scrape up all the BCBs from the bottom of the pan. When blended well, stir in 1.5 cups milk or half&half or cream (NO LO-FAT!!). Stir to combine well. Add the crumbled sausage.

Serve over anything with massive amounts of black pepper. No, more than that.

Fresh cracked pepper is very different than that stuff in the can.

I use that stuff in the can for blackening fish and for eggs. Mainly cause its a finer grind and different flavor.

I use the fresh for most everything else. Soups, Steaks, Veggies ect…

I have a mix in the pepper grinder. Black, white, green red berries. :cool:

And fresh (as in “not dried”) is different yet. I had sushi at Tojo’s in Vancouver BC a couple of times where he used fresh pepper berries as a counterpoint to the fish. They were great–slightly spicy yet milder than dried peppercorns, with fresh vegetal notes (as you’d expect, since they were…umm…fresh). I doubt they’d be available in the US, though.

I find that bacon grease yields superior flavor compared to vegetable oil. Also, I do the full pound chub up, half in patties, and half in crumbles. When frying, leave the patties set still and only turn once. Do not press them flat and for the love of flavor, do not add water. Letting them sit still builds up the dark brown tasty stuff. Cook at a temperature where the stuff doesn’t get black and dry, but stays a bit moist. Moving the sausage around prevents the flavor from building up. When done, the patties get removed to a piece of bread and covered, but the crumbles stay in the frying pan. Add a bit of bacon fat and then add a good amount of freshly ground black pepper and some kosher salt (kosher salt seems to dissolve faster and has no iodine so the flavor is there right away). Let that cook for about 30 seconds before adding flour until it stops absorbing, stirring all the while. Cook and stir until the flower is well browned, then add your whole milk all at once and stir like mad, scraping the bottom to fully deglaze the pan. Cook until the right thickness. Serve over sausage and biscuits, and with more salt and pepper.

Jimmy Dean is the sausage to use, no nitrates in the ingredients. My favorite flavor is bold.

Crush black pepper with mortar and pestle.
Mix with lemon zest.
Add some olive oil to make a paste.
Rub over fish (tilapia filets are good)
Sprinkle with juice from half of lemon.

Bake - I’m thinking about 10 minutes at 400.

Sprinkle with juice from remaining lemon half.

Remarkably easy and delicious. Also, healthy.

Add it to strawberries.
Many years ago there was a restaurant here that made their own bread and butter every day. The butter was usually flavoured with herbs, but one day it was “strawberry and black pepper”. My first reaction was :dubious:, but it was delicious!
Black pepper is one of my all time favourite tastes (next to lime and avocado)

mmmmmm, pepper!

I think an avocado brushed with lime juice and sprinkled with salt and fresh ground pepper would be delicious right about now!:slight_smile:

Soya Sauce and Pepper Roasted Potatoes

Mix a bit of oil and some soya sauce in a bowl, with some chopped garlic if you like, and grind in a bunch of black pepper. Cut potatoes (red or yellow, not the baking ones) into fat wedges, all about the same size, putting them in the bowl as you go, and turning them to coat. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Stir the potatoes and add more pepper. Cover a flat pan with foil. When the oven is ready, stir the potatoes, add pepper, and arrange the potatoes on the foil. Place in oven until the upper surface of the potatoes looks dry, turn them over, and cook until done.

Serve with more pepper, of course.