As I mentioned on Instagram, today’s Pappardelle Au Poivre is likely to be somewhat divisive. This pasta dish is of course based on the French classic Steak au Poivre. But it contains no steak, involves vegetables, and is actually a plate of carbs. So yeah, not steak au poivre. But, in my opinion, the magic of the classic dish lies in its sauce and the sauce is very much present in today’s recipe. So we can argue over whether this dish is deserving of the “au Poivre” moniker or we can grab a fork and dive right in. This dish comes together in 30 minutes, is creamy and comforting, and loaded with pepper. What’s not to love?
Some people are not going to be happy about this. For many, dishes like Steak au Poivre are sacred. Classics that should not be fiddle with. Dishes that are so close to perfection that they can’t be improved upon, so why bother? Why bother? Because it’s fun. I agree steak au poivre is delicious, near perfect, and worthy of reverence. But I think of food as I would a language. It should be played with. It should evolve, breathe, and shift alongside the people who use it. The only stagnant language is a dead language and I do believe this applies to cuisines as well.
Now, I don’t think I’ve reinvented the wheel with this Pappardelle Au Poivre, I simply place a really delicious pan sauce in a different context. And this context just so happens to cater to vegetarians and the carb-obsessed, which I think is a very good thing.
When you strip down the components of steak au poivre, what do you have? A steak cooked immaculately to your preference and a damn good pan sauce. Well, what else is dressed in a pan? Pasta. Now, I love making vegetarian versions of dishes that no vegetarians would consider eating. Steak au Poivre is quite naturally out of the question for a vegetarian. It has steak in the title. And that just doesn’t seem fair to me. The thing that separates steak au poivre from a simple steak is the pan sauce. The pan sauce is vegetarian. Yes, you need the steak drippings and fond to give the cream, cognac, and peppercorns life. But you can get pretty close if you give mushrooms the bougie steak treatment.
Now, I will admit it was hard to get around the lack of animal fat when building the pan sauce. So in order to compensate for the absence of a rendered fat cap, I added more butter to the sauce than I normally would. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first thing we’re going to do is talk mushrooms. Cremini mushrooms to be specific. You can use another variety of mushrooms, but just make sure you can slice whatever mushroom you choose nice and thick. Then it’s time to get the pan nice and hot and sear those mushrooms on both sides. Don’t crowd the pan. Work in batches so the mushrooms don’t steam each other. We want them to develop a good golden crust.
Once your mushrooms are happy, take them out of the pan and set them aside. Add your asparagus and sauté until they are close to tender. You don’t have to worry about crowding the asparagus, just add them all in one go. Add the mushrooms back in along with a knob of butter, two smashed cloves of garlic, and a few sprigs of thyme. Tilt the pan to one side and spoon the butter continuously over the veggies. This is what I mean when I say “bougie steak treatment”.
When your veg is done, transfer them to a bowl and add some shallots and garlic to your now-empty pan. It’s time to build that incredible pan sauce. Once your shallots and garlic are translucent and happy, deglaze the pan with cognac and cook half of it off. This should take next to no time. Reduce the heat and stir in a little Dijon mustard and a lot of cream. Add some brined peppercorns if you can find them. Otherwise, add regular peppercorns coarsely smashed in a mortar and pestle.
We’re in the home stretch now! Add your cooked pappardelle to that incredible sauce and invite the asparagus and mushrooms to the party. Toss everything together until every noodle is coated. Finish the dish off with a final sprinkling of smashed peppercorns and a handful of arugula. The arugula is optional but I think its bitterness adds a nice bit of contrast to the dish.
And that’s pretty much everything you need to know about this Pappardelle Au Poivre. A breezy dish that plays with the flavors of the French classic but delivers its own unique eating experience.
Pappardelle Au Poivre with Asparagus and Mushrooms
- 1 Large skillet
- 1 mortar and pestle
- 1 Large pot
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 227g (8oz) cremini mushrooms cut into thick slices
- 1 bunch asapargus cut into quarters
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter divided
- 3 cloves garlic divided
- 4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 400g (14oz) uncooked pappardelle
- 3 shallots halved and thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp cognac
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- ½ cup cream
- 1 tbsp brined peppercorns ** optional
- 1 tbsp dried peppercorns
- ½ cup arugula
- ½ cup grana padano shredded
- Place a large pot of water over high heat. Cover and bring to a boil.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Working in batches, add the mushrooms slices to the skillet and brown them on both sides. Don’t crowd the pan. Season the mushrooms with salt and set them aside.2 tbsp olive oil, 227g (8oz) cremini mushrooms
- Place the asparagus in the skillet and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until just tender. Smash and peel two cloves of the garlic and set them aside. Return the mushrooms to the skillet and add a tablespoon of the butter, the smashed garlic, and the thyme sprigs. Tilt the frying pan and spoon the butter over the vegetables. Transfer the veg to a bowl and set them aside.1 bunch asapargus, 3 tbsp unsalted butter, 3 cloves garlic, 4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
- Your water should be boiling by now. Liberally salt the water and add the pasta. Cook until al dente. This should take about 8-10 minutes.400g (14oz) uncooked pappardelle
- While the pasta is cooking, thinly slice the remaining clove of garlic and set it aside. Add the remaining butter to the skillet. Once the butter melts, stir in the shallots along with a pinch of salt. Sauté until just translucent, then stir in the garlic. Sauté until fragrant.3 shallots
- Deglaze the pan with the cognac and simmer until it reduces by half, this should only take a few moments. Add the Dijon mustard followed by the cream and the brined peppercorns, if desired. Simmer for 2-3 minutes3 tbsp cognac, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, ½ cup cream, 1 tbsp brined peppercorns **
- Place the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle and coarsely grind them, set them aside.1 tbsp dried peppercorns
- Drain the pasta and place it in the sauce over low heat. Return the vegetables to the skillet and toss to coat and evenly disperse the vegetables. Divide the pasta across four bowls and garnish with the cracked peppercorns, a sprinkling of arugula, and Grana Padano. Serve immediately.½ cup arugula, ½ cup grana padano