Some times, when dinner rolls around, we all experiment and try to put together something new. Other times, we resort to the classics, maybe not comfort food, but definitely something “established,” and this is one such dish: Beef Wellington.
I don’t think I ever had a Beef Wellington before this, but was well aware of it (how could you not be when its included on Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen season after season?). Like some other “classics”, I approached this with some hesitation as it seemed like it could be tasty in my mind, but it also just seemed kind of…stodgy and dated, if that makes any sense. But the more I thought about it, I couldn’t imagine how this dish would disappoint.
After eating this, I can easily see why this is a classic. This is timeless: a juicy, tender cut of filet mignon cooked inside a tight, buttery, flaky package of puff pastry. If you’re not familiar with this dish though, there’s an additional, literal layer of flavor in there between the steak and the pastry: an earthy mushroom duxelle (think a finely diced mix of caramelized mushroom, garlic, and shallot) as well as an optional mousse of foie gras (or in my case, a bit of dijon–I have no aversions to the deliciousness that is foie gras, I just didn’t have any handy!). When this delicate dish is fully assembled, you have something that just screams luxurious, and as luck would have it, I just happened to have some of the highest quality, marbleized, melt-in-your-mouth, tender cut of beef I ever had the privilege of cooking in my kitchen. Cooked rare so that the beef could still shine center-stage, this made for quite a meal.
- ~1.5 lb beef tenderloin (ideally all in one piece)
- olive oil
- 1 sheet puff pastry
- ~1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbsp water
- no more than 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp duck fat
- 8 oz button mushrooms
- 1 shallot
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black or white pepper
- 2.5 Tbsp white wine
- Optional: ~1-2 oz of Foie Gras or some other pâté
Begin by letting the tendeloin rest at room temperature so that it warms up a bit.
Now, we’ll start with the duxelle. Finely dice the shallot, garlic, and mushrooms.
In a hot pan, melt a teaspoon of duck fat (if available–this was my nod to foie gras) and a knob of butter. Sauté the shallot for 2 minutes and then add the garlic for another minute. Finally add the mushroom with the salt and pepper and sauté for about another 10 minutes (just when the mushrooms begin to caramelize), after which, you should deglaze with the wine and briefly cook further until the wine fully absorbs. Set this aside to cool.
Now that the duxelle is done, salt and pepper the steak and then in a pan with a bit of olive oil, sear the tenderloin for about one minute on all sides (this is good for rare/medium-rare). Remove this from heat and set aside while preheating the oven to 425°F.
At this point, roll out a sheet of puff pastry (already thawed out if using store-bought) to about 14 inches square (adjust this size to accommodate your cut of meat) and fairly thin.
If you’re using pâté (due to poor timing, I ran out just prior to cooking this!), coat the entire surface of the tenderloin on all sides with it, pressing firmly all over the steak. If you don’t have or care to use pâté, you could instead lightly coat the steak all over with dijon mustard instead (this is what I did–but don’t use both at the same time).
Whatever you coated the steak with, finally, coat the steak with the duxelle you prepared earlier, pressing on all sides. Lay your coated steak on the rolled out puff pastry. If there’s excess puff pastry, cut off a thin strip for decorative purposes later (if you care to bother).
In a bowl, prepare an egg wash, beating the egg with water in a bowl until well mixed. Brush the perimeter of the inside of the puff pastry with the egg wash (to ensure it sticks and seals shut nicely later) and roll it tightly around your steak, crimping and sealing shut as neatly as possible. The goal is for all of this to happen on the “bottom” of your wellington so that the ugly seams are unseen.
If you have any designs for decorating your wellington with the extra puff pastry, now is a good time to go ahead and do it. I don’t really know what I was thinking, lol, but it looks better than nothing, right? Make leaves, lines, and other frilly things just so it doesn’t look like a big, dull loaf.
Finally, brush the entire visible surface of the pastry with your egg wash and set this on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and transfer this to the oven.
Once 20 minutes have passed, your wellington should be around rare/medium-rare, so if you’re happy with that (like I am), take it out of the oven. If you prefer your meat a little more cooked, give it another 5-10 minutes (and consider a longer sear earlier). Whenever you say the meat is cooked, let the wellington rest for about 5-10 minutes before you dive in so that the juices can be reabsorbed into the meat.
Once you can’t hold back any more, with a sharp knife and a steady hand, carve into serving sized slices and dig in. While you could prepare an additional sauce to compliment this, with a high quality cut of meat, I think you’ll find this rich and rewarding enough as it is. I served with a side of mashed potatoes and a glass of aged Brunello di Montalcino.