Don’t Burn Down the Rental: Mimi’s Pepper Steak with Garlic Scapes and Rice


As a child, one of my favorite dishes was a pepper steak my mom used to make. Unlike the recipes that use a mixture of stewed bell peppers and tomatoes, this one is a rich combination of whole peppercorns, a sour cream sauce, and a flambé-style brandy finish. When I told Elliott about my dramatic experience the last time I made this dish, he assured me that he had everything under control.

The recipe calls for you to deglaze the pan with a 1/3 cup of brandy and even though Elliott only used a 1/4 cup, the show was just as spectacular. We realized that when there is an explosive flame that reaches to the ceiling, it would probably be a good idea to have an exit strategy. (After a search on the internet we learned that a nearby metal lid is the best way to snuff out pan fires) The flaming brandy was easy enough to blow out but it still got our hearts pumping and filled our already smokey apartment with another wave of brandy-flavored smoke.

Considering my mom made this recipe multiple times in our small kitchen growing up, I realized we must have either had really high ceilings or she was a bad-ass cook. Elliott and I both agree that this recipe would be best executed in larger, more modern kitchens outfitted with vented hoods. Even though most of the alcohol burns off relatively quickly, it definitely gets your pulse going.

Pepper Steak:
4 small steaks (tenderloin, rib eye or spencer cuts)
Whole peppercorns
1/3 cup brandy
2 tsp. beef bouillon
Splash of red or white wine
1 tbsp. butter
2/3 cup sour cream

Lightly pound peppercorns and press into both sides of steak. Let stand for 10 minutes. Heat a skillet and rub with meat fat. Cook steak on both sides until medium rare and season with salt. Add brandy and light, covering the pan with a metal lid, if necessary. Remove meat to platter. Add the beef stock and wine and cook for 1 minute. Finish with butter and sour cream.

Garlic Scapes:
Fresh garlic scapes, trimmed
1/2 fresh tomato
Olive oil
1/2 cup of white wine

Elliott’s cousin Cisco recently told us about garlic scapes, a tender offshoot of the garlic plant that is only available at the beginning of the summer season. They look like a long green bean but with the subtle flavors of garlic. Since we both love garlic, it was a great change from our usual broccoli or asparagus. Their season is short so don’t miss the chance to try these curly wonders!

Sauté the scapes in a little butter and olive oil. When heated through, add the tomatoes. Once the scapes have caramelized, deglaze the pan with the wine and serve.


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