Beef Wellington for Special Occasions

Funny Speaker Vinny Verelli's Beef Wellington

Beautiful rare tenderloin of beef with duxelles encased in puff pastry

I can’t think of a more festive dish. It’s truly for special occasions as you don’t see it show up at a lot of potluck suppers here in the mountains.

Just like every recipe I make for the first time I do a lot of research into what other people are doing. And just like every recipe, Beef Wellington has no set method. However a Beef Wellington should have beef, duxelle and pastry. Everything else is up to you.

One guy I saw on YouTube put the puff pastry around the sides of the tenderloin and on top but not on the bottom. He said the puff pastry on the bottom gets soggy, acting as a sponge to soak up juices. Duh! That’s the whole purpose. I can think of few things in this world that are better than a buttery puff pastry soaked with tenderloin juices, smoke ham and duxelle. Frickin delicious!

The great thing about Beef Wellington is each step can be prepared in advance. When making something for the first time it nice not to have the added pressure of exact timing. The full recipe and notes follow the video.

THE RECIPE:

Ingredients for 6 servings

  • 2 to 2 ½- pound beef tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry, port or Madeira
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 4 ounces can duck foie gas or similar prepared pâté. (optional)
  • English mustard
  • 8 slices of prosciutto ham
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 pound frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten or one egg yolk with a dash of water.
  • Sea salt, or coarse salt, for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS:

  1. THE DUXELLE: Drop the shallot and garlic down the shut of your food processor. Then add the mushrooms and pulse until you have a fine mixture. Scrape the mixture into a pan with about a Tablespoon of butter. Add some salt and pepper and cook over a high heat for about 10 mins, mixing and turning frequently to cook out the moisture from the mushrooms. Add the, Sherry, Port or Madera stir and cook down. Add a tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme. If you don’t have fresh thyme just skip the spice. Dry thyme doesn’t really cut it. At this point you can mix in the optional foie gras. Taste and adjust seasoning. Turn mixture into a bowl and let cool. Once the duxelle comes to room temperature you can cover and keep in the refrigerator until you need it. Do not cover the duxelle while it is still hot. Condensation will collect and add moisture to the mixture that you spent so much time cooking to remove liquid.
  2. SEAR THE BEEF: Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan. Season the beef with coarse salt and pepper and sear in the hot pan for 45 seconds to one minute on each side. Remove from the pan and brush all over with the English mustard. The hot meat will absorb more of the mustard flavor. ** See the note below on searing.
  3. Lay overlapping sheets of cling wrap on a work surface and arrange the ham slices on it, in slightly overlapping rows. Spread the duxelles over the ham, then place the seared beef fillet just below center. Keeping a tight hold of the cling wrap from the edge, neatly roll the ham and mushrooms around the beef to form a tight barrel shape. Twist the ends of the cling film to secure. Chill for 20 minutes to allow the beef to set and keep its shape. Once again this can be done in advance.
  4. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface to a large rectangle, about a ¼ in thick. . If using store-bought pastry, it may be necessary to lay out 2 pieces side by side and pinch the seams to connect them. I measured the length and circumference of the beef roll to make sure I have enough pastry to cover the beef, ham and mushrooms. To make it easier to roll you should place the rolled pastry on top of another layer of cling wrap. Remove the beef from refrigerator, unwrap and lay in the center of the pastry. Brush the surrounding pastry with egg wash. (Egg yolk with a dash of water.) Fold the ends over wrapping the pastry around the beef. Cut away any excess pastry and pinch the ends to make a tight seal. Once again wrap the pastry in the cling wrap. The tighter you make the roll the more uniform the shape will be and the more evenly Wellington will cook. Place in the refrigerator to chill about 20 minutes.  This can even be done the night before. Then when you’re ready to bake proceed with step 5.
  5. Place the Wellington seam down on a baking sheet. Lightly score the pastry at ½ inch intervals. You are only marking the pastry for design effect. (You’ll notice in the photo of the one I made, that my scoring was too deep).  If you want, decorate with cut outs of puff pastry and glaze with egg wash.
  6. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake until pastry is golden brown and beef registers 120 – 130 degrees on an instant-read thermometer for rare, 130 -135 degrees for medium rare. Bake for about 35-45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving. I like to slice the Wellington down the middle then calculate the size of the individual slices based on how many people I’m serving.  Slices should be at least an inch thick.
  7. Drizzle some sauce on each slice and serve with roasted red potatoes and a green vegetable.

The Sauce
I started with Wagner’s “Demi-Glaze” mix that I picked up at the Ingles. The recipe on the back calls for one cup of water to be mixed in with the packet contents. I used ½ cup of water. ¼ cup of Jack Daniels and ¼ cup of homemade muscadine jelly. The muscadine grape is indigenous to the State of Georgia.

Combine the Demi-Glaze mix with water and Jack Daniels. Bring to a boil stirring often to dissolve all the mix. Reduce heat and simmer for a couple of minutes. Add ¼ cup of muscadine jelly. Muscadine is native to Georgia but you can substitute other jellies. A red currant jelly would work nice. If this sounds like it’s going to be too sweet for you, start off with 1/8 of a cup jelly. Taste and adjust by adding more jelly or additional water.

NOTES:
Using Ham: I heard one chef say that adding ham to the Wellington is like gilding the lily. My wife likes to say, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.” I like to use ham as it adds some more fat and flavor to the tenderloin as it’s not the most flavorful cut of beef.

Using foie gras: Some chefs cringe at the thought of adding foie gras or liver pâté in the duxelle. Those are the chefs that are using exotic mushrooms that are $20 to $30 a pound. When using simple button mushrooms the foie gras adds additional flavor and more cholesterol to the duxelle.

Scoring the pastry: Be careful not to score the pastry too deep on top. You do need to put a few tiny slits in the top to vent the steam. Adding decorative pastry cutouts adds a nice touch. You can see how scoring too deeply caused the pastry to open up in the photo. (photo of pastry cooling).  This didn’t effect the taste but it made it harder to slice.

Funny Speaker Vinny Verelli's Beef Wellington

Scoring the pastry too deeply can cause the loaf to split. Too much steam will escape and the meat won't stay as hot. But don't worry, no flavor is lost.

Searing the meat: There is only so long you can cook a Beef Wellington before you burn the pastry. You want the pastry to be crisp and a golden brown, so if you like your meat done on the medium side, you will want to sear the tenderloin a little longer.  Remember the beef is inside a layer of pastry, ham and duxelle. In 35 minutes the beef is only going to cook a little more than it was when you wrap it.

The Sauce: There is so much flavor with the beef Wellington that a sauce is not necessary. But as with everything else, if one uses a sauce there are no two recipes the same. Red wine sauces are the most frequent used. Keeping that in mind I live in the South, I took this English dish and added a touch of the South. Any top Chef would be appalled that I used a package sauce, but this is something that is done a lot in the South as well.

Posted by Funny Motivational Speaker Vinny Verelli

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