Take a moment to have a close look at something you are very, very good at. It could be as simple as making a cup of coffee, or as complex as rebuilding a fine mechanical watch. One of the things that will strike you is the simplicity and parsimony of your actions and movements. There will be little wasted effort, and an unconsciousness about it – a level of skill we call the “Unconscious competent”. If you observe masters of anything – I just watched the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, about Japan’s greatest living legend of sushi making – you will know exactly what I mean: Less is more.

It is this “less is more” approach that struck me about Stéphane Gabart’s (My French Heaven) recipe for Peppercorn Steak last night. In all my years of cooking, I have never made something that tasted this good with so little effort and few ingredients. It was truly extraordinary and certain to now enter the ranks of those few dishes that must appear at least monthly on my “rotation”.

While Stéphane’s pictures are far better and more mouthwatering than mine (I was too much in a hurry to eat the stuff to care about the pictures), I thought you might enjoy seeing my “process”:

Quickly sear two inch-thick entrecotes (New York strip to Americans) in a very hot, dry, cast iron pan. Remove steaks from pan and place in 400F oven to finish cooking (medium rare about 4 minutes in the oven)

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Deglaze the pan with whisky (brandy, whatever), add slightly crushed green madagascar peppercorns and ignite to burn off the alcohol. Add very heavy cream and reduce to desired consistency.

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The finished product served with steamed asparagus and French fries made in one of France’s great contributions to civilization and the waistline, the Actifry.

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Thank you Stéphane for a memorable meal. Total preparation time: 10 minutes

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