Cooking Class with Chef Ivan Flowers – Lesson 75 Steak Sauces

In the last class I taught some quick and easy dorm room dinners. This class I’m continuing with readers’ suggestions and teaching you three steak sauces. One of the reasons you all love dining out at a steak house so much is the choice of sauces. But when you make a steak at home, you tend to reach for a branded steak sauce or ketchup (nothing wrong with either of those!). Steak sauces don’t have to be intimidating and once you learn some basic techniques, you will be off to the races. So thank you, Rick Levang for your suggestion.

Now let’s get cooking!

All sauce recipes will serve six. The first sauce is a green peppercorn sauce. I love the richness and complexity of this sauce and think it makes even a mid-week meal feel like a special occasion. For this recipe you will need: large sauté pan, medium saucepan, whisk, sieve, large spoon, ¼ cup clarified butter (8 ounces unsalted butter), one ½ tablespoons finely chopped shallot, three tablespoons Port, ¼ cup cognac, seven tablespoons heavy cream, one tablespoon brined green peppercorns, one ounce cold unsalted butter, ½ teaspoon red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

First thing to do is to clarify your eight ounces of unsalted butter. Yes, it must be unsalted, that way you control the seasoning of the dish. Don’t panic, this is easier than you think. Clarified butter simply means you are separating the milk solids from the fat. Doing this creates pure butterfat which has a higher smoking point. This recipe will make more than you will need, but that’s okay, store the extra in an air tight container in the fridge and use in place of oil to sauté veggies, etc. So, put two sticks of unsalted butter in an uncovered medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Let it cook until it comes to a simmer. Once it is simmers, put heat to low and cook for ten to fifteen minutes. It is ready when all the milk solids come to the top. It will look like it is covered in white foam. Once this happens, remove from heat and using a large spoon, skim off all the foam and discard. You will be left with clarified butter. Set this aside.

Next in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and in ¼ cup of the clarified butter and let it heat for two minutes. While it is heating take your brined green peppercorns and rinse in a sieve. You do this so you get SOME of the salt from the brine, but not all of it.  Now, once the butter is heated whisk in the shallot. Remember a shallot tastes like a combination of a mild onion and garlic. If you don’t have one you may substitute red onion. Cook the shallots for two to three minutes until translucent. Remove the pan from heat and let it cool for two minutes. Next, with the pan still off the flame, add in the cognac and the port. You ALWAYS add alcohol into a pan while it is off the flame because there is a fire hazard if you add it while pan is on a flame. Now go back to the flame and tilt the pan toward it until the contents ignite. Keeping the pan on the heat let the flame burn out. This has burned off all the alcohol, but left all that fabulous flavor from the cognac and the port. Next add in the cream and the rinsed and drained green peppercorn and whisk to combine. Continue cooking over medium-low heat until this is reduced by half. This is the time for the ounce of cold unsalted butter to be added. You want it cold so it incorporates into the sauce slowly and helps to emulsify it. Whisk continuously once you add in the butter. Once it is melted, add in the red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. That’s it!

The second sauce I’m going to teach you is a red wine sauce.  I love this classic sauce and the earthiness of the wine works wonderfully with a steak. For this recipe you will need: medium saucepan, whisk, sieve, large bowl, two cups good red wine, one tablespoon balsamic vinegar, ½ tablespoon brown sugar, one tablespoon cold unsalted butter, one teaspoon tomato paste, one clove chopped garlic, ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Remember; always cook with a wine you would drink. Cooking concentrates the flavors, be they good or bad. Place all ingredients, except the cold butter into the saucepan and whisk to combine. Cook uncovered over medium heat until reduced by ¾. Once reduced, strain it through a sieve into the large bowl. You do this because you want all the flavor from the garlic etc., but you are creating a silky sauce. Once strained, put it back into the saucepan over low heat and whisk the cold unsalted butter into it. Once the butter is melted, salt and pepper to taste. That’s it!

The third sauce is one I have made quite a bit as a chef. It is a blueberry sauce. Before you stop reading the rest of the recipe, let me tell you, this sauce works not only with steak, but also with chicken or pork. It is smoky, sweet, has a touch of acidity and just a little heat. For this sauce you will need: medium saucepan, large spoon, blender, one ½ cups blueberries, ¾ cups Chardonnay, two tablespoons balsamic vinegar, one tablespoon honey, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, ½ jalapeno chopped, salt and pepper. Reminder, if you don’t like too much heat, remove the ribs and the seeds from the jalapeno, if you do like a little more heat, leave them in the pepper. Put everything in the saucepan over medium-low heat and stir to combine. Cook uncovered ten minutes until it gets syrupy. Once it looks like syrup, let it cool for ten minutes and then place in the blender. You want to let it cool a little because if you go into the blender while it is very hot, steam builds up and the lid pops off creating quite a mess. Blend the sauce until smooth and then salt and pepper to taste. That’s it!

There you have it, three steak sauces that will add some pizzazz to your meals. Now that you have these techniques, experiment a little, add in a sprig of rosemary to the red wine sauce to make it a little herbaceous. Or instead of the red wine vinegar, squeeze some lemon at the end of the green peppercorn sauce for a punch of citrus. Remember, as with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what helps you create delicious meals you’ll never forget.

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Chef Ivan Flowers

Chef Flowers has over 25 years of fine cuisine experience. The former Executive Chef at Top of The Market, San Diego, also owned Fournos restaurant in Sedona, Arizona, named a top 25 restaurant in Arizona. He was also Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona, the AAA Four-Diamond, Four Star award winning restaurant. Flowers has created extraordinary cuisine for some of the finest restaurants in Arizona, including T. Cooks at Scottsdale's Royal Palms Resort and the Phoenician's Mary Elaine's and Different Pointe of View.