Beef Wellington #FoodieReads
Just before New Year's, friends invited us over for dinner. Our kids have been in school together since preschool though they are now scattered all over California at different colleges from San Diego to Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz to Berkeley. It was a great chance to get the kids reconnected and to spend time with other empty nesters who were enjoying having children home for the holidays.
They made hors d'oevres, individual beef wellingtons, salad, and cookies. Since they didn't let me bring anything, I brought the wine pairings, a vertical tasting of Carignan from Two Shepherds Winery.
I was so impressed that she took the time to ask everyone's preference on meat doneness and made individual beef wellingtons! And my mushroom-averse child was so excited that his could be made without the duxelles layer.
I was inspired to make my own (not individual) Wellington not long after this dinner because I finished reading The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. And that is the process I'll share below since I don't have Undine's recipe.
On the Page
The novel is set in a remote part of Scotland where a group of friends has gathered for their annual New Year's celebration. They are staying in a hunting lodge made even more isolated by a snowstorm. As a murder mystery, The Hunting Party was interesting, especially since it's not clear for quite awhile which character was actually killed!
Where the book fell short were the painfully stereotypical characters. Most of the group went to Oxford together. There's the Queen Bee around whom the whole group revolves; the handsome but Shallow Hunk who is married to the Queen Bee; the successful but Plain Bestie who has played second fiddle to the Queen Bee since childhood; the Angry Guy who has a not-so-secret crush on the Queen Bee; the gay couple; the Lovebirds who have a baby; and, finally, the New Girl who wants to be best friends with the Queen Bee and is attached to the Angry Guy. Do they sound like a cliché? They were.
Nevertheless, the story was interesting enough to keep me flipping pages and trying to guess who was killed and whodunit! The resolution was just barely satisfactory. But I did finish the book, so that says something, right?
There was plenty of food mentioned. Apart from one hosted dinner, Emma, the one who arranged the vacation, also provided the innkeepers with a grocery list for their provisions. She was told, "'You should find all the ingredients you’ve asked for in the fridge. I have the list here. Beef fillet, unshucked oysters—Iain got them from Mallaig this morning—smoked salmon, smoked mackerel, caviar, endive, Roquefort, walnuts, one hundred percent chocolate, eighty-five percent chocolate, quails’ eggs'—she pauses to take a breath—'double cream, potatoes, on-vine tomatoes . . .'"
And for their New Year's Eve dinner, Emma narrates: "I have my wonderful feast planned: smoked salmon blinis to go with the first couple of bottles of champagne, then beef Wellington with foie gras, followed by a perfect chocolate soufflé. Soufflés, as everyone knows, are not easy. You have to be a bit obsessive about them. The separation of the eggs, the perfect beating of the whites—the timings at the end, making sure you serve them before the beautiful risen crest falls. Most people don’t have the patience for it. But that’s exactly the sort of cooking I like."
On the Plate
Beef Wellington is a traditional English way of preparing beef tenderloin. Said to have originated in the 1800s after the Duke of Wellington was victorious at Waterloo in 1815, it was a popular "fancy" dish in the mid-1900s. The tenderloin is covered in either paté de foie gras or mushrooms duxelles then wrapped in ham or prosciutto followed by puff pastry. Then it's baked to a beautiful, golden brown and served in thick slices.
puff pastry (here's a post that includes my homemade sourdough puff pastry)
beef tenderloin (mine was 2 pounds)
duxelles (mushroom paste)
1 teaspoon freshly ground salt
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
2 Tablespoons spicy mustard
1 egg, beaten
DUXELLES (MINE IS NON-TRADITIONAL)
8 ounces mixed mushrooms (I used a mixture of Maitake frondosa, forest nameko, velvet pioppini, and Buna-Shimeji)
3 Tablespoons butter
splash of olive oil
1 shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic
3 stems of fresh thyme
1 cup wild arugula (remember, I did write 'non-traditional')
Also needed: blender or food processor
Soften the garlic and shallots in butter. Cook until the shallots begin to turn translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
Add in the mushrooms and cook until softened, approximately 10 to 12 minutes.
Place the mushroom mixture in a blender with wild arugula and a splash of olive oil. Blend until a paste forms. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Season your tenderloin with dried thyme and freshly ground salt. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
Sear your tenderloin in a hot pan with a splash of olive oil - just long enough for the meat to seal in the juices - approximately 1 minute on each side.
Lay your prosciutto slices out, overlapping the edges so that there are no gaps. Spread the duxelles over the prosciutto - about the length of your tenderloin.
Rub 1 T of spicy mustard on one side of the tenderloin and lay that side down on top of the duxelles. Rub the other tablespoon of mustard over the top.
Carefully wrap the tenderloin with the prosciutto so that it is completely covered.
Roll out the puff pastry and place the prosciutto-wrapped meat in the center. Fold the puff pastry completely around the meat and place it on a parchment-lined baking dish, seam-side down. I had a few extra pieces of dough and made a few hearts for decoration. Cut some slits in your pastry. Brush the entire surface with beaten egg and place in the oven.
Bake for 40-45 minutes. The pastry will be browned and puffed.
Let rest for 10-12 minutes before serving.
Note, mine completely fell apart when I sliced it. So, there were no gorgeous slice photos with the puff pastry still intact. I did some more reading and found that was a common problem. I suppose I'll have to give this another go and use a really sharp knife for carving next time. If you have any other Beef Wellington carving tips, I'm all ears! Or, I will probably get the recipe from Undine and do her individual beef wellingtons. Genius!