Tuesday, October 2, 2007

"The 'I Love Lucy' Cookbook" - Hotel Royale Steak au Poivre

Date I made this recipe: September 30, 2007

The “I Love Lucy” Cookbook by Sarah Key, Vicki Wells and Jennifer Newman Brazil
Published by: Abbeville Press Publishers
ISBN: 1-55859-855-3
© 1994
Recipe: Hotel Royale Steak au Poivre – p. 8

Three weeks ago on September 16, 2007, the 59th Emmy Awards were broadcast. I intended to make this dish that evening but one thing led to another and well, I made it this past weekend. We were busy on Emmy weekend, the following weekend we were in Lambeau Field watching my Packers play (!) and so it fell to this weekend to make the dish.

Although I watched the broadcast, I can tell you very few names of those who won, seeing as how I tend to watch more cable than network TV. But if asked, I can bore you to tears with scenes and lines of my favorite comedy show of all time, I Love Lucy.

I Love Lucy premiered in 1951 and in 1952 received its first nomination for Best Situation Comedy. It didn’t win that year but won in 1953 and 1954. Lucille Ball won Best Comedienne of 1953, which is equivalent to today’s Best Actress-Comedy, as well as Best Actress-Continuing Performance of 1956, and Vivian Vance who played Ethel Mertz won Best Supporting Actress in 1954.

This cookbook, which really isn’t a cookbook per se as a walk down memory lane of the show, contains some quotes that are just hilarious. On page 45, for instance, the authors have a quote from one of my all-time favorite episodes – Lucy Does a TV Commercial. In the episode, Lucy has to demonstrate Vitameatavegamin, an health syrup that is loaded with alcohol, such that she becomes quite drunk the longer the demonstration goes on:

“and get a great big bottle of Mightameatamigamin. Remember that name, Mightavatameatymat.”

But my favorite line from that episode was: “Are you unpoopular? Do you pop out at parties?” when she should have said “Are you unpopular? Do you poop out at parties?” Ah, poor Lucy—so close to making it in show business and yet so far.

To this day, I record I Love Lucy episodes on TV Land and still howl with laughter at most of them such as “The Operetta;” “The Indian Show; “Equal Rights;” Lucy Learns to Drive (“Who knew you couldn’t make a U-turn in the Holland Tunnel?”); Lucy’s Mother-in-Law (where she pantomimes that they’re having chicken and rice for dinner to Ricky’s Cuban mother who doesn’t speak English) and Ethel’s Home Town (“Ethel Mae Potter, we never forgot her”), just to name a few.

This recipe is meant to compliment the episodes where Ricky, Lucy, Fred and Ethel went to Europe on a band tour. Of course they stopped in Paris and of course, the episodes were hilarious. This recipe, however, is pretty staid and typical of what you’d find in a French bistro. My only caution is to not over-poivre (pepper) the thing. I can only imagine what Lucy would have done with that!

Hotel Royale Steak au Poivre – makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns (see note below)
4 boneless strip steaks (8 ounces) trimmed of all fat
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons minced shallots
2/3 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cognac
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Note: we cut the recipe in half as two steaks cost about $22. The sauce seemed to work fine cut in half.

Spread cracked pepper on a plate. Press pepper into both sides of each steak. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Saute steaks in hot oil over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes on each side, until cooked to desired doneness. Remove steaks to a warm serving platter and discard any oil in the pan. Add the remaining tablespoons oil to pan with shallots. Saute over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add cream and salt. Cook for 2 minutes. Add cognac and thyme sprigs. Continue to simmer over medium heat for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add vinegar and adjust seasoning. Pour sauce over steaks. Garnish with whole peppercorns and sprigs of thyme if desired. Traditionally, steak au poivre is served with potatoes and watercress.

Note: To crack pepper, spread whole peppercorns on work surface. Press with the bottom of a heavy pan until peppercorns are crushed. Precracked pepper is also available.

Ann’s Notes: Be very careful that your pan doesn’t get too hot and the steak doesn’t stick. This happened to me and so when I flipped the steaks after 4 minutes on one side, I cooked them for 2 minutes instead of an additional four so as not to have them be too crusty. I like my steaks medium rare and they came out perfect.

Also, although the recipe calls for adding the shallots to the pan along with the remaining oil, I used a clean pan; the browned bits didn’t scrape up very well and I didn’t want my shallots to end up as one brown glob. But it’s your call and if you don’t get the pan too hot (although I swear mine was on medium-high), you might be just fine.

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