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Steak Hache au Poivre / Hamburgers in Peppercorn Sauce

Renée Robinson

Rich Wine Sauce Turns Thick Peppercorn Crusted Ground Chuck Patties into a Company Worthy Dish

Out of all the recipes I’ve made throughout my life, this is the one that my family requests over and over and over again. It originally came from Pierre Franey’s cookbook, published in 1979, “The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet”. There are a couple reasons why this dish is so good. The first is the technique involved. Ground chuck is shaped into thick, at least 1 1/2 inches, patties, sprinkled with salt and plenty of roughly crushed black peppercorns. The patties are then placed into a very hot cast iron skillet and not moved for almost 5 minutes. This produces a thick crisp crust. You flip them and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. We like ours medium rare. Cook for a couple more minutes for medium. The thick patties are removed from the pan, a deeply flavored wine sauce is made and this is the second reason these are so delicious.

I have tweaked this recipe over the years and will provide you with my version. Although I’ve given specific amounts of the sauce ingredients I haven’t actually measured them in a long time. No harm will come if you change some of the exact measurements of the liquids involved, but the technique of swirling in the butter at the end is essential for achieving the luscious mouth feel of the sauce.

And while I’ve learned these are at their best if you’re able to grind your own chuck, they’re still delicious if you use the ground chuck purchased from the grocery store. All I can tell you is that whenever I mention I’m making these, nothing makes my family happier. That’s no exaggeration. The deeply flavored sauce, combined with the crusty thick patty is a true revelation and I still love it after all these years.

Steak Hache au Poivre/Hamburgers in Peppercorn Sauce

Recipe by Renée Robinson



Thick juicy hamburger patties bathed in a deeply flavored red wine/cognac sauce enriched with butter.

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  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck

  • 2 tablespoons roughly crushed black peppercorns

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

  • 3 tablespoons salted butter

  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots

  • 1/3 cup dry red wine

  • 3 tablespoons cognac or brandy

  • 1/2 cup beef stock or broth

  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

  • kosher salt


  • Shape the ground chuck into 4 thick oval patties, about 1 inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and press the peppercorns onto the patties, making sure they adhere well.
  • Heat a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium high heat until very hot. Add the oil and swirl it around to cover the bottom of the skillet. Add the beef patties and cook for 5 minutes without moving them. Flip the patties and cook for 4 minutes for medium rare. Remove the patties from the skillet.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet, along with the shallots. Cook for 1 minute and add the red wine and minced rosemary. Cook for 1 minute and add the cognac. Let it reduce by half. Add the beef stock and cook until reduced to about 1/3 cup. Add the minced rosemary.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat and swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Do not stir it. Hold the pan by the handle and only swirl the butter until it has melted into the sauce. Add the patties back to the skillet, turning them once in the sauce. Sprinkle with the minced parsley and serve each patty topped with some of the sauce.

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