Birthday Breakfast for the Imaginary

In my free time, I write fiction. My husband says it makes me an easier person with whom to live.

My writing focuses on a Parisian high fashion house inclined to supernatural events. The creative director is Étienne d’Amille and he’s been in my life for decades.

So, he’s my best ever imaginary friend.

He was born during the interwar era in France– March 14, 1959. Every year I try to mark his birthday in some way. When he turned 50, I took a group of my friends (the ones who “knew” him, i.e. read about him) out for dinner and margaritas.

Many of my celebrations are quiet meals at home, where we often discuss what we’d get him for a present or what he might be doing now. 

This year, I made steak au poivre.

For breakfast.

A day late.



I had intended a lovely dinner, perhaps even by candlelight, for this charming imaginary Frenchman whose memories I confuse as legitimately my own. Then I agreed to work for a colleague in the evening and my mom visited taking my daughter away. (She would have been extremely disappointed if we ate the steaks without her.) To further complicate matters, my husband and I used the early afternoon for other activities (or more accurately, one adult activity) that I’m sure Étienne would have also enjoyed.

This particular version of steak au poivre has its own “comedy of errors” moments but let me say, it might have been my best ever. After college, I became a vegetarian. This lasted eight years primarily for two reasons: 1. I don’t approve of modern factory farming and 2. I hate touching meat. Étienne, though, as a Frenchman and a divorcé, likes to cook so I got over my discomfort of dealing with meat “for him.”

Étienne’s Belated Steak Au Poivre

  • 4 small chuck tender steaks, angus beef (I got mine on markdown at Target)
  • black peppercorns
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • half a stick of butter, cut into four equal pieces of on tablespoon each
  • garlic powder (should be shallots but I didn’t have them. I often substitute fresh chives but didn’t have them either)
  • 1/2 cup brandy (I’m a liar. I didn’t have brandy. I had ginger brandy and spices rum, so I mixed them. It worked.)
  •  3/4 cup heavy cream (I’m lying again. I didn’t have cream, so I used half and half)

The process 

(I put photos on Instagram: angelackerman.)

With a heavy-bottomed skillet (mine, of course, is Le Creuset), smash peppercorns. I couldn’t find my grinder, which had my peppercorns in it. I did find a small container of peppercorns and salt that had exploded from the grinder at some point.

Next, pat steaks dry and smash them with a skillet too. Cooking can be great as a form of anger management. I bet Thug Kitchen would agree.

Sprinkle both sides of the steaks with salt and press the peppercorns into the meat. Cook them to desired doneness and place in a warm oven.

Now, the cream sauce.

Take half the butter and cook your shallots or chives or whatever. I added about two teaspoons garlic powder. When it’s appropriately incorporated pour in the alcohol. When that starts to bubble, add the cream and slowly bring it to a boil. Let it slowly thicken, then add remaining butter. When it melts and blends into the sauce and you just can’t take it anymore, smother those steaks and eat!



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