Christmas Eve Hessler Pepper Steak Special

From the Christmas Throwdown
Pepper Steak

My family has a very peculiar Christmas Eve tradition. Every year, on the 24th of December, we convene at my parents’ house in Roxboro for an intimate evening celebration. Like many other Canadian households, my dad will prepare some appetizers and serve up some seasonal cocktails. But then comes the pièce de résistance: pepper steak. What makes this an unforgetable tradition in my family is the fact that my parents do not have a stovetop vent. What’s more, the kitchen windows are generally frozen shut. Cooking a pepper steak in an airtight space makes for a lot of stinging smoke. The memories are forever etched in my mind: my father in a smoke-filled kitchen tending to the meat; me setting up a fan to blow the smoke from the kitchen to the open patio door, dressed only in my boxers so as not to stink up my clothes; my mother, sister, and wife, bubbly in hand, sitting on the washer and dryer in the basement knowing better than to get involved. The result is always the same: a scene worthy of a Mel Brooks film and a delicious meal shared in our very own clumsy but comforting Hessler family tradition.

4 bavette steaks
2 to 4 tbsp. freshly ground pepper (depending on how peppery you like the sauce to be)
2 cups 15% cooking cream
1 oz. brandy
Salt to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 200°F.
  2. Rub a little bit of salt and pepper on both sides of the steak.
  3. Melt butter in a large pan on high heat. When it is really hot (but just before it browns) throw the steaks in the pan and sear them on either side for about 2 minutes (for medium rare) or until they have nice browning spots. You don’t want to cook the steak too long as it will continue cooking in the oven.
  4. Take the steaks out of the pan, put them in an oven safe dish covered with aluminum foil and place in the oven for about 10 minutes. If your bavette cuts are really thick, cook a little longer in the oven. It all depends on how rare you like your steak. There’s no harm in slicing one in half to see where the cooking is at. Better to undercook than to overcook.
  5. Using the same pan over medium high heat, pour in the brandy to deglaze the pan. As soon as the the liquid starts to boils (20 to 30 seconds) pour the cream in and add the remaining pepper. Turn the heat down to medium and cook the cream down until it has a thick, creamy texture. Stir constantly.
  6. While the cream is thickening, take the steaks out of the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Plate them and cover with the pepper sauce. Serve immediately.

Pepper steak

Note: The steaks can be served with green beans and oven baked potato fries. For the Hessler family flavour, abstain from using any ventilation while browning the steaks 😉

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