A pretty darned close to perfect culinary pairing to put on a plate.
by Ari Weinzweig
A long-standing classic combination, great beef and pepper pair up as well as almost any other culinary combo I can think of. Bread and chocolate. Peanut butter and jelly. Red beans and rice. Pasta and Parmigiano Reggiano. Beef and black pepper. Last week the Roadhouse crew put Steak au Poivre on the specials list. It was so good I prevailed on longtime chef Bob Bennett to run it again so I could share the good word here.
Really good ingredients, like dry-aged steak.
Like so much of the food we make at Zingerman’s, the Steak au Poivre at the Roadhouse is all about really good ingredients, assembled simply and served with solid technique and kitchen skills. The steak, like all the beef at the Roadhouse, is cut from the beef of pasture-raised steers. We dry-age the beef for about four to five weeks, then butcher it in the back kitchen every evening. The pepper is Tellicherry, from the district of Kerala on India’s southwest coast. The spice equivalent of farm-to-table, it comes to us by way of the de Vienne family up in Montréal. They, in turn, have spent years building relationships with spice growers and traders including their friend Sudheer, the man on the ground in India who makes this pepper happen. Sudheer grew up around pepper growing with his grandmother’s work on a farm in the region. As an adult, he’s made it his mission to master the pepper trade, and in the process set new and higher standards for high integrity spice trading.
And Tellicherry black pepper.
We buy over a thousand pounds of Tellicherry for the Roadhouse each year, all sourced by Sudheer from sustainable growers in the region. The flavor of the pepper is awesome—a whole other level in complexity and quality that has raised the bar on so many Roadhouse dishes (fried chicken, ribs, black pepper fries, etc.). Great authentic Tellicherry like this is wine-like in that its flavor grows slowly in your mouth; it has legs, you could say. Like a big, bold peppery Zinfandel maybe, it’s spicy but hardly habanero-hot. It livens the tongue, and continues to resonate with a well-rounded heat without taking over.
Putting it all together.
When you put those two together—pasture-raised, dried-aged, beef and world-class pepper from Kerala—you’ve got a pairing for the ages, a culinary combo I could eat regularly for the rest of my life. The coarse-cracked pepper crusts up on the beef as it cooks, slightly softening the peppercorns, picking up a hint of smoke from the oak-fired grill. The wininess of the pepper is a perfect match for the marvelousness of the meat! A great dinner for a cold winter’s evening. And, yes, some good Bakehouse bread and dark chocolate would be a great way to finish the meal. You can buy a bar of Shawn Askinosie’s amazing offerings at the Roadhouse and use it to finish off the Bakehouse’s superb sourdough bread that comes with your meal!
P.S. Looking ahead to next fall, September 9 is National Steak au Poivre day and also co-founder Paul Saginaw’s birthday. Put that in your calendar ASAP!