Pepper Steak (“Old Junior Pep”)

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Photograph by Susan Puckett

I love Martha Foose’s cookbooks as much for her stories as her satisfying, unpretentious recipes. She has a great knack for making even a homey classic feel fresh and exciting. Her take on pepper steak, from her 2011 book, A Southerly Course (Clarkson Potter), is probably the best I’ve ever had. One important trick is adding the peppers near the end of the cooking time, after uncovering the dish, so that their texture and vibrant colors are retained. It is fantastic served over plain fluffy, white rice. As with so many of her recipes, a Mississippi memory provides the inspiration and the context.

Junior Pepper lived down the road near my great-aunt Carrye, who was a widow. (Almost all the older ladies out that way are widows, it seems.) Junior Pep, as he is known to all, makes the rounds checking on his lady friends a couple of times a week and calling their relatives if anything seems amiss. He has always been a ladies’ man. Junior Pep raised cattle and when I think of pepper steak he always comes to mind.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 (1- to 2-pound) sirloin steak , cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thickly sliced
2 cups beef broth
Pinch of red pepper flakes (or dash of hot sauce)
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Splash of red wine
1 green pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 red pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped

Instructions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large pan set over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the steak and cook, turning, until well browned on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer the steak to a 2 1/2 –quart baking dish.

Stir the flour into the pan drippings. Cook, stirring constantly, until dark brown, about 2 minutes. Add the celery and onion, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the broth, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce, and the wine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Pour the hot mixture over the steak in the baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.

Add the bell peppers and continue to bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the steak is fork-tender. Baste the steak with sauce as it cooks, if needed.

Makes 4 to 6 servings 

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