Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Recipe: Easy Beef Wellington

Today's world food comes from the British Isles under mysterious pretenses and its origins may lay upon the more cuisine-serious shores of the European continent.

There seems to be a great deal of mystery surrounding the origin of Beef Wellington and that mystery begins with its name. There are several stories and no real certainties as to why it is called "Beef Wellington". I can offer that it seems to be the English incarnation of a popular French dish called "filet de boeuf en croûte". Perhaps, as I've read, the anglicized version was named after a British hero during times when English and French relations were much more strained than they are now.

In the end, it doesn't matter what you call it, because "a rose by any other name..." blah, blah, blah. You can call it "tenderloin pot pie" or a "cow in a blanket" and I'm still going to want seconds. The telling is in the taste and not the name, ("spotted dick" fans are nodding while they read this).

Beef Wellington is one of those dishes that for a small amount of effort, you can have something really impressive looking and delicious to serve your friends or family during the holidays and other special occasions. It's hard not to get a reaction from your guests when that golden pastry-clad, juicy tenderloin takes center stage on your dinner table. Sliced good and thick and dressed with just a little bit of au jus and paired with some good roast potatoes, this stuff is going to have a lot of fans.

Other recipes suggest an au jus using Madeira as an ingredient. I suppose that is more accurate than my simple au jus, but I just don't keep Madeira around and my version doesn't seem to suffer from the lack of it. If you're a stickler, I'm sure there are many Wellington sauce recipes online. The internet is a wonderful thing!

My last suggestion for this recipe is that you use a good electronic meat thermometer with a remote read out. This allows you to constantly monitor the cooking temperature and lets you time everything perfectly. I know, my roast beef, chickens, pork loins and turkeys have greatly improved since I picked up one of these inexpensive technical doodads..

Easy Beef Wellington

2-3 lb. beef filet (trimmed of fat and silver skin)
2 TBS peanut oil
1 2.75 oz. can of goose liver paté
8 ozs. crimini (baby bella) mushrooms (chopped)
1 TBS butter
2 sheets of pastry dough (homemade or frozen)
1 egg white (beaten together with 1 TBS water)
1 cup white wine
1 14.5 oz. can beef broth
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Put a small fry pan over medium heat. Melt the butter and add the chopped mushroom and sauté until the mushrooms give up their liquid and cook down. Remove the mushrooms from any remaining liquid and allow to cool. Reserve the mushroom liquid along with 1 TBS of mushrooms separately.

Set a large heavy fry pan or dutch oven on medium high heat, add peanut oil and when it begins to shimmer carefully brown the beef filet on all sides and both ends. Good browning is key, so increase the heat if necessary. When finished with browning, remove the filet to a plate to cool.

While the filet cool, you can make the au jus.

Set the pan you used to brown the meat over high heat. When it is very hot, add the white wine and deglaze the pan being certain to scrape up any bits from the pan bottom. When the liquid begins to thicken, add the beef broth and reserved mushrooms and mushroom sauce and continue at a high simmer (lower heat if necessary) and reduce to about half. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Preheat your oven to 450°F

Lay out one sheet of the pastry dough (if using frozen, be sure to thaw first) on a lightly oiled baking tray (not a baking sheet). In the middle of the sheet where the filet will sit, spread a thin layer of the paté. Sprinkle some of the cooked mushrooms onto the paté. Place the filet gently on the paté and mushrooms.

Spread the rest of the paté evenly over the rest of the filet. Then gently press the rest of the mushrooms evenly into the paté on the filet. Then trim the pastry crust to a 1" border around the filet. Then using a pastry brush moisten the this border with some of the egg wash mixture.

Place the second pastry crust gently over the filet. Be sure you fit it firmly buy gently over the filet. Trim the top pastry dough to match the bottom pastry dough then be sure to seal the two pieces of pastry dough together using the tines of a form or a pie wheel.

Now here you can get creative. Using the surplus pastry dough, cut shapes or ribbons from it and decorate the covered filet by attaching the pieces of decorative dough to it using some egg wash mixture. In the photo you'll see I did ribbons and a bow. When finished paint the entire wrapped roast with the rest of the egg wash.

Place the roast in the middle of the 400°F oven for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°, and bake the roast for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until the meat thermometer registers 130°F. for medium-rare meat and the pastry is cooked through. Let the fillet stand for 15 minutes then remove it using two spatulas to a cutting board, slice and serve with the warmed au jus.

Recipe: Easy Beef Wellington from Chop Onions, Boil Water by Henry Krauzyk

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