Serious Eats: Recipes

The Secret Ingredient (Black Pepper): Steak au Poivre with Truffle Microgreen Salad

[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

I've been doing something I never thought I'd do: researching black pepper. I wasn't surprised to find that it is the most in-demand spice on the market, or that it causes sneezing. But did you know that the green peppercorn, which I often buy in brine, is just the unripened black peppercorn? Or that the white peppercorn is just the black peppercorn without its little black outer shell? Or that Egyptian mummies had black peppercorns stuffed up their noses? Or that the peppercorn might be the very reason America was discovered, as explorers searched for ways to find their ways to Eastern spice markets? We do owe the little black peppercorn a debt of gratitude, so I am glad you can find it on almost every single table, right next to the salt.

But black pepper is not just a seasoning, it's an ingredient. I love a steak with a great crust, and nothing makes a better crust than black pepper. If ground roughly enough, it provides not only that strong spice, but also a distinct crunch which contrasts beautifully with that soft, mild interior of a medium-rare steak. In this recipe, sear the steak, coat it in freshly ground black pepper, roast it until done. Then top it with peppery microarugula, to reflect delicately on the peppercorns, tossed with fleur de sel and truffle oil. You could make this for Valentine's Day and look pretty amazing.

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the French in a Flash series for Serious Eats.

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