You’ll find the taste of France and the American South blended in the Alabama kitchen of Frank Stitt, a true Southern gentleman. While studying philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1970s, Frank met Alice Waters, during the early days of Chez Panisse. It was a meeting that changed his career course. After living in Europe, he returned to his home state and opened the Highlands Bar and Grill, then Bottega, Bottega Café, and Chez Fonfon, all of which have been named to countless lists of the best restaurants of the South. In this classic French dish, he infuses a creamy, peppery sauce with the flavor of a Southern staple: Tennessee whiskey. Chef Stitt cooks the steak in a cast-iron skillet, but you can use any heavy skillet that can withstand high heat. New York strip steaks are best when the tail and the fat are left on until after you’ve finished cooking them. Remove the tail just before slicing.
1Bring the steaks to room temperature. Place the stock in a small saucepan and bring it to boil over high heat. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until reduced to 1/2 cup. Set aside.
2Heat a 16-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and season on both sides with salt and coarsely ground pepper. Add the oil to the skillet and swirl the pan to coat the bottom. When the oil starts to smoke, add the steaks and decrease the heat slightly. Cook, turning once, for about 5 minutes per side for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.
3Meanwhile, wipe any excess oil out of the skillet and return to high heat. Add the whiskey, being careful it does not come in contact with an open flame. Cook for 30 seconds, scraping the sides and bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon. Add the stock and cracked pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes, or until reduced by half. Stir in the cream and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until reduced by half. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4Cut the steak into thin slices across the grain, arrange on a warmed serving platter, and spoon the sauce over the top. Serve.
Beverage pairing:Matthews Claret, Washington. In the spirit of the American whiskey in this dish, we’ll have an American wine. This claret is a blend of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but with a good dose of Cab Franc. Elegant and balanced, it has the luscious black fruit and spice that the beef and peppercorns crave.
This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.