Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A delicious, fast and easy salmon or beef dish in a whisky cream sauce

(This blog post originally appeared as an article in the Cooking section of the Wednesday, September 13, 2006 print edition of The Washington Examiner, page 33; reposted here mostly to maintain a record and fill space.)

Looking for a quick, delicious, elegant, yet totally easy one-pan recipe for dinner tonight? Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it. Well look no further. This peppered steak with whisky cream sauce works brilliantly with either salmon or beef. Not only is clean up a cinch – everything is cooked in one pan – the entire dish, from prep to table, should take no more than about 20 minutes. This is one of those dishes where the sauce is an essential compenent to the dish, and who can resist cream, butter, and scotch whisky.

I adapted this recipe from Scottish Chef Nick Nairn, who developed this originally as a peppered beef dish. Chef Nairn eventually adapted the recipe for chicken, and then turned his eye towards salmon. What can I say, the man is a culinary genius! The recipe is essentially a “steak au poivre” (French for steak with peppercorns) that has been liberally adapted and that makes wonderful use of Scotch whisky.

Peppered Steak (Salmon or Beef) with a Scotch Whisky Cream Sauce
Serves 2

2 6-ounce salmon steaks or 2 (8-ounce) beef fillets (you can use a 16-ounce sirloin steak, and just cut it into two portions)
1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns
½ tablespoon crushed white peppercorns
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
freshly ground sea salt
½-ounce salted butter
1 tablespoon whisky
¼-pint double cream (use heavy cream in a pinch)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, plus extra to garnish

Mix your black and white crushed peppercorns together and put to one side. Now spread the dijon mustard all over your steaks and then press the crushed peppercorns into the flesh. Don’t overdo the mustard, you want just enough to give it a nice thin coating. Season with salt as desired.

Heat your frying pan until it is very hot, then add the butter. As as soon as it starts to foam, place your steaks into the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and fry the steaks for about 3 minutes on one side to brown them.

Then turn the heat back up and flip the steaks to the uncooked side. Then pour in the whisky but be careful to not throw it in wildly and create a flambé. Boil this quickly until the whisky has all but disappeared, then pour in the cream. Carefully deglaze your pan (scrape up any bits that are sticking to the bottom of the pan around the steaks), while you bring the cream to a fast bubble.

Now boil this until your sauce starts to thicken (1 to 2 minutes), then taste and, should it need it, season with more crushed black pepper and salt. If using salmon, the fish should be just cooked, if it is too pink, continue to simmer it over a low heat for another minute. If using beef, it should be just about rare, but can be cook to desired doneness.

Once the cooking is finished, stir your chopped chives into the sauce around the steaks and serve immediately. Garnish with the extra chives.

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