Cognac Peppersteaks with Chili-Chocolate Sauce and Potato-Quince Gratin

Cognac-Peppersteaks-Chili-Chocolate-Sauce-Potato-Quince-Gratin-3Sometimes, you just have to treat yourself and/or your most loved one. Just because. And, for once, I have absolutely nothing to add to that, apart from the following: Once everyone involved is inside the house, lock the door, pour yourself a glass of whatever you’ve picked to accompany the steaks – a Brunello was our pick for this particular dinner for two – and start with…

The Potato & Quince Gratin
150-200g/2 large’ish Waxy Potatoes
100g Sweet Potato
1 Quince, defuzzed, peeled, cored, thinly sliced and swimming in lemon-splashed water
1 Red Onion, very thinly sliced into half-moons
1 Clove of Garlic, very finely chopped
100g Crème Légère
1 heaped Tbsp Quince Jelly
30ml Beef Stock
1 Tbsp Walnut Oil
Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg
5-6 Slices of Taleggio Cheese
100g Gruyère


1) Preheat your oven to 200°C
2) Add the crème légère, stock and oil to a small pot and allow the lot to work up a gentle
3) Once the mixture had about 2 mins at a bubble, season it with a generous pinch each of salt, pepper and nutmeg and slide the pot off the heat and whisk in the garlic and jelly.
4) Stack the onion, quince and potato disks into 2 10cm-DIA lightly buttered mini cocottes or ramekins or simply into 1 regular sized casserole. Don’t forget to wedge the Taleggio bits in between~ They make all the creamy difference in the end! I always break the pieces up a bit when I go with the mini cocottes and use them as stabilizers while dealing with the task of fitting irregular bits of veg into a regular shape (sure, I could use a knife… wouldn’t taste as delicious though~)
5) Slowly pour the creamy mixture on top while making sure every last nook and cranny gets at least a little drop of it right from the start.
6) Distribute the second hero of the dish, the Gruyère on top in an even layer.
7) Place the containers on the middle rack of your oven and bake the lot for 40 mins until
a knife-test tells you the potatoes are done and a, irresistible golden crust has formed on
8) The halfway-mark would be the perfect time to get the steaks into the pan, by the way~ So, just in case you’ve forgotten to take them out of the fridge 30 mins ago, now would be the time.

Just in case you were eyeballing the somewhat unusual-looking crust on these particular gratins, here’s the why of it:
I actually found a workaround for the lack of an oven! The quick rundown: cook the spuds and quinces halfway, proceed through the stacking procedure as above, place a folded sheet of baking parchment in a large, heavy-based pan with a fitting lid, place the cocottes (lids closed) on top and carefully pour enough hot water around the cocottes to reach 1/3-1/2 of the way up the cocottes. Close the lid, turn the heat to medium-low and… sorta-bake the lot for 45 mins. Go to town with a crème brûlee torch. Chuckle gleefully at a delicious gratin coming out of a pan and dig in~! The oven-version is less nerve racking, however…


The Cognac-Kissed Steaks
2 Tbsp Ghee
2 Beef Tournedos, ~250-280g each
A generous pinch each of Salt and Pepper
2 Bay Leaves
1 Sprig of Rosemary
1 Clove of Garlic, bashed
100ml Cognac – a leftover Honey Whiskey made a very nice substitute the last time these yummies hit our dinner table!

1) Pop the bay leaves, garlic and rosemary into your pan along with the ghee.
2) Set it onto medium-high heat and allow it to work up to it.
3) Slide the aromatics to the side and spinkle the surface with a generous amount of sea salt.
4) Fry the steaks up until they reach the core temperature of your choice (check in here if you’re not sure about how to check for the current stage of your steaks), flipping them over every 30 seconds for a nice and even crust on all sides.
5) Take out the steaks, place them on a warmed plate along with the aromatics and tuck them in under a blanket of tinfoil.
6) Deglaze with the pan with the Cognac/Brandy (or whiskey!), rub any and all bits of yum sticking to the bottom of the pan loose with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon and proceed with the sauce while the meat’s resting.

The Chilli-Chocolate Sauce
2 Tbsp Green Peppercorns
1 Tbsp Pink Peppercorns
100ml Beef Stock
50g Crème Légère
25g Dark Chocolate, 80%+, maybe even Chili-Spiked Chocolate, finely grated – I’ve seen many a scrunched up nose on people not familiar with the concept at the mention of chocolate in a savory sauce, so before you cringe away and ditch the idea consider this: it’s a binding agent with a hint of a bitter aroma, giving creamy substance and body to your sauce while sparing you the more obvious cream, butter, flour and/or starch deals. And keep in mind… its 1 small piece of chocolate – just under 2 whole bars away from anything “sweet”~
Opt: 1 Tsp Brown Butter

1) Once the rub-works are done and the alcohol has evaporated, dilute the essence of steak and cognac with the stock and send the peppercorns swimming.
2) Turn the heat to medium-low and allow the liquids to reduce down to about 1/3 of the former amounts.
3) Stir in the grated chocolate and brown butter and give the sauce another couple of blinks until it starts to thicken – enough to cozily coat the back of your spoon.
4) Stir in the crème légère, slide the pan off the heat and get ready to plate up~!

Assembling the Dish
The Steaks
The Potato & Quince Gratins
The Cognac-Pepper Sauce
Fleur de Sel or your fav flavored Steak Salt
Opt: 2 small bouquets of leafy salad drizzled a simple, citrusy dressing

1) Divvy up the gratins – or the individual containers of it – onto 2 warmed plates.
2) Turn the steaks over in the sauce once and nestle them beside the gratin stacks or containers.
3) Distribute more of the sauce onto the steaks if you like it… saucy, then top them off with a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel.
4) Garnish the servings with the bouquets, light some candles, refill the glasses and…



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