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Buffalo Pepper Steak (with notations for substituting beef)

I’ve become very enamored of the buffalo from Big Valley Ranch in Oregon…you can get it at the Grand Lake farmers market every Saturday, from Prather Meats. So this month’s recipe is going to be a pepper steak made with buffalo rib-eyes. The meat is very tasty, tender and lean—it needs to be cooked very rare, and cooks much faster than beef. So a close watch on it is essential. This meat is so good, I’ve had tartare made with it and was wowed by it. Perfectly safe to eat raw if you handle It properly and it’s scrupulously fresh. You can also get buffalo at Berkeley Bowl and Whole Foods, but be sure it’s very fresh—the Bowl tends to let it hang around in the case for a bit too long at times. Later in the season, I’ll add my recipe for braised buffalo short ribs—but let’s wait till the rain starts, for that.

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 1⁄2 lbs. of buffalo rib-eye steaks, or 2 lbs. of New York beef steaks
  • salt and crushed black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. grape seed or neutral vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. brined green peppercorns
  • 1⁄4 cup dry Vermouth
  • 2 Tbs. Cognac (optional)
  • 1/3 cup beef stock or canned beef broth
  • 2 Tbs. heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. chopped parsley

1. Crush the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle, or grind them in a peppermill set to slightly more coarse than usual. Coat the meat with about 1 teaspoon per steak. Salt the steaks, using less salt if you are going to add canned beef broth, which is salty.

2. Heat a heavy cast-iron or tri-ply pan until it’s quite hot. Add the oil, then the steaks, being sure not to crowd them. Cook undisturbed for about 2 minutes, until the meat is browned and releases easily from the pan. Turn and cook another 2 minutes (a bit longer for beef). Remove the meat to a plate, and let rest while you make the sauce.

3. Pour the Vermouth, and if you are using it, the Cognac, into a measuring cup and then into the hot pan. It will probably ignite, in which case let the flames die down. DO NOT pour directly from the bottle! Once the flames die down, add the green peppercorns, and cook the mixture until there is not much more than a tablespoon of liquid in the pan. Add the stock or broth, and cook again, until it is reduced by half. Add the cream, return the meat to the pan, and warm well. Add most of the parsley just befor you remove the meat. Serve, garnished if you like with a bit more of the chopped parsley.