Culture: Burger au Poivre | Wine Enthusiast
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The secret ingredient for many a French bistro? A splash of Cognac in your food.

Cooking with Cognac brings a touch of spice, vanilla and fruit, and when used properly, it leaves food that doesn’t taste like brandy yet still retains the spirit’s background level of complexity. The cooking process is also rather quick, unlike deglazing with wine, where a sauce may need to cook for a while to not taste overwhelmingly fruity or tart.

Affordable Cognacs and Armagnacs can run $30–$40 a bottle, though smaller formats are also available if you don’t want to commit to a full bottle for a single recipe. Other aged grape brandies can be substituted, but cheap ones can be too sweet and woody. A good rule of thumb is to use something balanced enough to drink.


2 teaspoons peppercorns
½ teaspoon salt
6 ounces fresh ground beef
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, finely sliced, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons Cognac
¼ cup heavy cream
Tomato, sliced thin (optional, for garnish)
Dijon mustard (optional, for garnish)


Crush peppercorns with mortar and pestle, or grind with rolling pin.

Form ground beef into patty. Season both sides of patty with salt and 1 teaspoon crushed peppercorns, reserving rest. Coat patty with grapeseed oil. In frying pan over high heat, sear both sides of patty to desired level of doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Remove burger, and rest on paper towel. Remove excess oil from pan, and return to medium-high heat.

Add butter and sliced shallot to pan. Cook until shallot softens, about 1 minute.

Remove pan from heat, and allow to cool for 30 seconds. Add Cognac and return to heat. Bring to simmer. Stir and scrape bottom of pan to deglaze and create sauce.

Simmer for 1–2 minutes, until Cognac reduces by about half. Add cream and remaining pepper. Simmer for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add parsley, as well as salt, if desired.

Arrange burger on bun, and pour au poivre sauce on top. Garnish with additional shallot, sliced tomato and/or Dijon mustard, if desired. Serves 1.

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