Most couples have a song, we have a dish, … Beef Wellington. It was the first special meal that we cooked together, and it’s the recipe that we remember when a festive mood strikes. For something that’s surprisingly simple to put together (if you use commercial puff pastry), Beef Wellington is an elegant gastronomic statement. The rich combination of mushroom duxelles and foie gras raises the most delicate cut of beef to culinary heaven. Here’s a crucial piece of advice: use a meat thermometer to determine the cooking time, because overcooking will ruin this dish.
This year we chose Beef Wellington for our family’s Christmas Eve dinner, served as Evelyn George used to do it in my husband’s favorite restaurant, “The Carriage House” of South Bend, Indiana: with duchess potatoes and a wine reduction sauce. Fresh asparagus completed the meal.
(adapted from many different sources)
4 beef tenderloin filets, 1.5 inch-thick
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper
for the mushroom duxelles
4 ounces mushrooms
1 shallot, finely diced
1/2 T olive oil
1 T butter
salt and pepper
dash of nutmeg
1 T Madeira wine (or Sherry)
puff pastry (home-made or good quality store-bought)
slices of foie gras
egg wash (1 egg beaten slightly with 1 tsp water)
Heat oil on a large skillet until it starts to smoke, season the meat with salt and pepper, and sear the filets on both sides over high heat; 2 minutes per side. Reserve.
Prepare the duxelles: finely dice the mushrooms (preferably by hand) and squeeze 1/4 cup portions at a time in a fine cloth (twist the cloth to tighten the squeeze) to release their bitter juices. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet, add the shallots and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the squeezed mushrooms, saute until fully cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper, add the nutmeg, Madeira wine, and cook for a couple of minutes. Reserve.
Assemble the Wellingtons: roll out the puff pastry to enclose each individual piece of meat. On the center of the pastry, add a slice of foie gras, 2 tablespoons of duxelles, and set the seared filet mignon on top. Enclose it in the pastry, with the seam facing up, then invert the whole package, so that the duxelle layer is on top. Brush the surface of the wellingtons with egg wash, placing small cutouts of pastry as a decoration, if you wish. (Wellingtons can be assembled 6 hours in advance, keep refrigerated).
Cut some slits through the pastry, and place the packages in a 400F oven until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 125-130F for medium-rare – about twenty minutes (it will continue cooking a little more while it rests). Remove from the oven and allow it to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
(to print the recipe, click here)
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RED WINE REDUCTION SAUCE
1/2 shallot, finely diced
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup veal stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 T butter, cold, in small pieces
Remove most of the fat in the pan that you used to sear the filets, leaving about 1/2 tablespoon. Sautee the shallots for a couple of minutes, then add the red wine and deglaze the pan well. Add the veal stock and boil gently until the sauce is reduced by half and slightly thickens. Season with salt and pepper. Add the butter in pieces, a few at a time, swirling the pan over low heat. The sauce will get a smooth shine from the emulsion with butter. Remove from heat and serve alongside the Beef Wellingtons. If necessary to re-heat, do it over very low flame.
(to print the recipe, click here)
Comments: The first time we cooked this dish, we made puff pastry from scratch. We had a weekend all by ourselves, and we enjoyed the full preparations: Puff pastry on Saturday, refrigerated overnight, and the wellingtons on Sunday. It was a memorable dinner, and we loved it, but we also realized that we made a small mistake: the duxelles mixture wound up on the bottom of the package, and the pastry became soggy during baking. The foie gras and duxelles belong on top, to release fat and moisture over the steak, not into the pastry. The second time we made the dish we again made puff pastry from scratch, and invited two couples for dinner. It went very well, but I had problems with the amount of pastry, and ended up opening a frozen package to wrap the last two pieces. If you’re a novice at puff pastry, don’t make it for a big dinner party, practice on your partner first! 😉
Duxelles. Some recipes advise to use a food processor to cut the mushrooms. Please, do not. You’re making an amazing meal, and details like cutting by hand will make sure it turns out great. I’m of course lucky to have a sous-home-chef always willing to help me… He dices the mushrooms and squeezes them dry for me. Isn’t that amazing?
Searing the meat. High heat, only 2 minutes per side, to avoid the perils of overcooked meat at the end. I don’t brown the sides of the filets, it’s just unnecessary: only sear the top and bottom. Two tips on browning any meat: don’t overcrowd the pan, and make sure the meat is absolutely dried of any moisture, using paper towels to blot it before searing.
Forming the Wellingtons: enclose the meat with the rolled out puff pastry, try to work a bit fast on a floured surface, because you don’t want the butter in the pastry to melt. The small leaves were made by my sous-home-chef, who deserves promotion ASAP… Remember to cut a couple of slits on the surface of the pastry to allow steam to escape during cooking, or the pastry might burst open.
The assembled Wellingtons can be in the fridge for several hours before baking, making it a perfect option for entertaining. I can’t stress enough to use a thermometer to check the meat, it’s the safest way to have it juicy, tender, and flavorful. If you have guests who prefer their meat well-done, then just leave their pieces in the oven a little longer…
Some like to spoon the sauce around on the plate, I prefer to pass it on a saucer after plating.
This is a meal that says “I love you” from the first to the last bite…
FILET MIGNON WELLINGTON
4 filet mignon (4 cm de espessura)
1 colher de sopa de azeite
sal e pimenta
para a “duxelles”
150 g de cogumelos
1 cebola, bem picadinha
1 / 2 colher de sopa de azeite
1 colher de sopa de manteiga
sal e pimenta
uma pitada de noz-moscada moida
1 colher de sopa de vinho Madeira (ou xerez)
massa folhada (tipo Arosa)
fatias de foie gras
1 ovo batido ligeiramente com 1 colher chá de água
Aqueça o óleo numa frigideira grande, tempere a carne com sal e pimenta e doure os filés em ambos os lados em fogo alto, 2 minutos de cada lado. Reserve.
Prepare a duxelles: pique os cogumelos (de preferência à mão) e esprema porcoes de 1 / 4 de xicara torcendo em pano fino para liberar o maximo da sua umidade, que frequentemente gera um gosto amargo aos cogumelos. Aqueça o azeite e manteiga em uma frigideira, acrescente a cebolinha e cozinhe por alguns minutos. Adicione os cogumelos espremidos, refogue até que a maior parte do líquido tenha evaporado, cerca de 8 minutos. Tempere levemente com sal e pimenta, adicione a noz moscada, o vinho da Madeira, e cozinhe por alguns minutos. Reserve.
Montar os Wellingtons: abra a massa folhada para colocar cada peça de carne. No centro da massa, acrescente uma fatia de foie gras, 2 colheres de sopa de duxelles, e o filé mignon por cima. Envolva a carne com a massa folhada, e inverta o pacote inteiro, de forma que a camada de duxelles fique no topo. Pincelar a superfície do wellingtons com o ovo batido, colocando pequenos recortes de massa como decoração, se desejar. (Wellingtons podem ser montados com 6 horas de antecedência, e mantidos na geladeira).
Cortar algumas fendas na massa (duas por wellington), e assar os pacotes em um forno a 200C até a temperatura interna da carne atinge cerca de 55 C para mal-passado – cerca de vinte minutos (a temperatura interna vai aumnetar um pouco mais com o descanso fora do forno). Retire do forno e deixe-a descansar por 10 minutos antes de servir.