Make the gravy: In a 4 quart saucepan, cook the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in the the bacon fat over medium low heat till they caramelize, about 30 minutes. They should be a chestnut brown. Stir in the black pepper and garlic. Cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the peas, beef stock and bay leaves. Cover and bring it up to a boil. Cook for about 40 minutes or until the peas are extremely tender.
Transfer the peas, all their liquid and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt to a blender. Add the milk and blend till it’s super smooth. Depending on how much liquid cooked out of the peas, you may have to add some additional water to achieve the proper consistency. It should look like gravy. Adjust accordingly.
For the steak: Preheat your oven to 400. Season the beef with the salt, black pepper and thyme. Sprinkle the garlic cloves overtop, and fold them in. Divide the beef into 4 equal portions. We can’t have anybody mistaking these for a plain old hamburger, so shape them like an oval or a rectangle.
Heat the vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the steaks and cook on the first side about 4 minutes, or until it’s nicely caramelized. Flip the steaks and slide the pan into the oven. Cook for 5 more minutes for a medium rare. Serve the steaks smothered in the gravy.
Note: At the restaurant we grind chuck fresh through a large dye for this preparation. High quality beef that’s just been ground makes a big difference here, and the larger dye lends it a more toothsome steak- like quality. If you live in a town with a new-fangled butcher shop, call ahead and tell them what you’re doing. They’ll gladly facilitate. If not, any lean ground beef will do.
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