Pepper-Crusted Strip Steaks with Twice-Baked Potatoes
2 strip steaks, 12 to 14 oz, about 1 1/2 inches thick (sometimes sold as Delmonico, New York, Kansas City, shell, or sirloin club steak)
1/2 cup whole black peppercorns, coarsely round with a mortar and pestle
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves chopped
Kosher or coarse salt
2 Idaho potatoes, scrubbed clean
3 oz fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
2 tbsp sour cream
1/2 cup scallion greens, thinly sliced on the diagonal
To make steaks:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a heavy sauté pan over high heat. Meanwhile, salt the meat all over (see introductory note) and press one side of each steak into cracked peppercorns. Film bottom of pan with oil and heat until almost smoking. (When it’s hot enough, the oil will “roll” in the pan — sort of move on its own in little waves.)
Immediately put steaks in pan, pepper side down. For steaks on the rare side of medium-rare, sear until a crust forms, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to oven for about another 4 to 6 minutes. (This depends on the shape of the steak, but the target temperature for medium-rare is 130 degrees.) Remove pan from oven, add butter, garlic, and thyme. No further heat is needed; the hot pan will melt the butter. Baste steaks. Let steaks rest on a warmed plate until you can touch them without burning your fingertips.
Tip: Resting “evens out” the cooking. Also, if meat doesn’t rest, juices bleed as it is sliced. For steaks this size, about 5 minutes should work. Better to rest too long and reheat than not to rest at all. If steaks have gone too cold for your taste, zap under the broiler just to give them a little surface temperature.
To make potatoes:
Make two beds of kosher salt in a shallow pan. Rub the potatoes lightly with oil and place each on a salt mound. (Now you won’t need to turn the potatoes to avoid scorch marks from hot pan. Crinkled-up tinfoil also works.)
Bake in a 350 degree oven until fork-tender, about 55 minutes; remove and let potatoes cool until you can handle them.
Peel one potato, coarsely chop, and place in a bowl. Cut other potato in half lengthwise. Leaving shells about 1/4 inch thick, scoop out insides of both halves and add insides to bowl. Mash warm potatoes with fork, mixing in cheese and sour cream, and season with salt and pepper. Fold in scallions and scoop into shells. (Leaving the surface a little rough forms nice browned peaks under the broiler.)
Broil 6 to 8 inches from heat until potatoes are heated through and golden, about 4 minutes.
To serve: Place a twice-baked potato alongside steak on a warmed plate