One visit to a lavender farm and you’ll know that fragrant flower isn’t just for potpourri any more. Blueberry lavender ice cream, chocolate-dipped lavender cookies, and lavender salt are just a few of the tempting treats. Lavender has a floral, slightly sweet flavor.
For a special dinner, buy some culinary lavender (or pick it from your yard). Get the finest beef tenderloin filets you can find. (Trader Joe’s has some tasty, tender filets.) This pepper steak has a flavorful spice crust.
Lavender pepper steaks have been my favorite beef dish for more than 20 years. The blue cheese sauce is a new addition to this recipe. If you are not a fan of blue cheese or don’t want the extra calories, just leave it off. It’s delicious either way.
Breaking news! The March & April 2020 issue of Cook’s Illustrated ran an article entitled “The Easiest, Cleanest Way to Sear Steak.” Andrew Janjigian said, “How do you pan-sear strip or rib eye without making a grease-splattered mess and setting off your smoke alarm? First, forget everything you know about steak cookery.” This recipe calls for tenderloin fillets rather than strip or rib eye steaks, but I was intrigued. Jim was even more eager for me to try this cooking method since he is the one to clean the kitchen after I cook. Forgetting everything I thought I knew about cooking, I put the steaks in a cold (not preheated), nonstick pan without oil and cranked up the heat to high. After cooking for 2 minutes on each side, I turned down the heat to medium and continued to turn every 2 minutes.
Guess what! It worked just like the article said: perfectly done with no grease splatters. I’ve changed the recipe to reflect this new cooking method.
(Note: Here’s a link to Cook’s Illustrated, but you need a subscription to see the actual article.)
Active time: 30 minutes Total time: 3 hours and 30 minutes
- Spice grinder, or mortar and pestle
- Instant-read meat thermometer (or slice steak to test for doneness)
- Nonstick skillet
- 4 beef filets (cut from tenderloin)
- 2 tbsp black peppercorns, coarsely ground
- 3 tbsp fennel seeds, coarsely ground
- 1 tsp white peppercorns, coarsely ground
- 1 tbsp lavender, ground to a powder
- 1 tsp coarse sea salt
- 2 tbsp (or more) extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup blue cheese, loosely packed
- 2 tbsp heavy cream (or other liquid: milk, almond milk, or water)
- 2 green onions, sliced thin, green parts only
Grind black peppercorns, fennel, white peppercorns, lavender and salt in an electric coffee grinder. (You could also do it by hand with a mortar and pestle, but that’s more work.) Put spice mixture on a plate. Pour 2 tbsp olive oil on a separate plate. Rub all sides of the steaks into the oil, covering the entire steak in a thin layer. Press all sides into the spice mixture to form a spice crust. Let rest up to 2 hours in the refrigerator, and another hour at room temperature.
Tenderloins can be cooked on the grill or stove top. If you cook them on a grill, you might lose some of the spice crust.
For stove top cooking, place the fillets in a cold (not preheated), nonstick skillet. Handle the steaks carefully so as not to disturb their crusts. Turn the heat to high and cook on each side for 2 minutes. Neither side will be browned at this point, but it’s time to turn the heat down to medium. Continue to flip every 2 minutes until browned. Since the fillets are thick, turn them on their sides occasionally for even cooking. They will need another 6 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness of steaks and desired doneness. According to Cook’s Illustrated, “Steaks should be sizzling gently; if not, increase heat slightly. Reduce heat if skillet starts to smoke.”
Use an instant-read meat thermometer to test for doneness, around 125 degrees for medium-rare, 135 for medium. Move tenderloins to a warm plate, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.
Mix blue cheese and cream (or other liquid) in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 20 seconds. Stir, then heat for another 20 seconds or so. I like it when there are still a few lumps in the sauce. Stir in half of the green onions. Drizzle blue cheese sauce over steaks on serving plates. Garnish with remaining green onions.