It’s hard to think of a cold weather Christmas when my family’s done without a healthy holiday helping of Beef Wellington. Somehow, the traditional British dish has become synonymous with our family’s most festive of feasts- I even remember our car getting stuck in a snowbank returning home in white-out conditions from a Christmas Day lunch at The Homestead (Greenwich, and beyond that Connecticut’s, premier French restaurant and the only establishment who has perfected the art of Beef Wellington).
Given that this was a Christmas filled with firsts: my first time hosting, and first Christmas in our new home, I decided that only a time-honored tradition could bridge the gap between holidays past and present.
And with that, the path towards Darcy’s Christmas breakdown was paved…
Beef Wellington. It can only be described as a recipe minefield! There are so many stages where anyone can blow the entire thing. The crepes must be just the right thickness, the puff pastry rolled out to just the precise width (so that it cooks and crisps with out overcooking the meat). Searing the meat- it must be even on all sides and done in a particularly hot iron skillet so to caramelize the beef. Oh, the fine points on this one are endless! The real important thing is that if you are going to do this boeuf en croute, you better damn well do it well- and by well, I mean rare!
Rare. The way I take my meat and the way I like my men…
Whew. It’s always a close one. But I must say, the worst atrocity in all my years of Beef Wellington sampling and structuring is biting into an overdone tenderloin. Imagine a fine crispy flaky french pastry filled with nothing short of a hockey puck. Never again my dear readers!
And so I give you my kid tested, mother, father, husband, grandmother, sister, and one fine French culinary institution- approved version of that oh so Franglish classic, more appropriately named….
This recipe is simply an amalgamation of tips, notes, and my very own learning experiences while making this true labor of love. May I INSIST that this only be made for those you care most about in this world, as it stands to take everything out of you… but boy is it worth it in the end!
Serves 4- 6
1 package of defrosted and rolled out puff pastry ( I use Dafour)
2.5-3 lb beef tenderloin, rolled and secure with kitchen twine to insure even diameter all around
60g brown butter
250 g flour
600 ml milk
15ml vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, sage, and thyme leaves
2 pints button mushrooms, finely chopped
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons butter
squeeze of lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper
400g Duck Liver Mouse
Trimming from the beef
mirepoix (even amount chopped onions, celery, and carrots to equal 1/3 of the amount of trimmings)
1/2-3/4 cup of rich red wine
3 cups beef stock, or enough to cover the trimings
bouquet garnis (bunch of thyme, celery leaves, parsley stalks tied in by a leek)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Make the crepe batter by mixing all the dry with all the wet ingredients and season.Whisk lightly leaving lumps and leave to rest for 30 minutes, covered in the fridge.
*in order to make the brown butter, place the butter in small sauce pan in medium-high heat and bring it until it turn brown in parts and the second it begins to smell nutty, pull it off the stove and pour into another bowl to cool
2. Meanwhile, make the duxelle by adding the chopped mushrooms into a medium saute pan along with the butter. Add the shallots and a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt and let the mushrooms and shallots soften and shrink. Once the water has come out of the mushrooms and evaporated, season to taste and bring off the stove. Stir in the parsley and let cool to room temp.
3. Make the crepes by using a clean cast iron skillet and a drop of oil brushed thinly across the surface. Heat to medium high and drop two small ladle size portions of the batter into the center of the pan. Swirl to evenly coat and reach the perimeter and let cook till the sides begin to brown slightly, flip and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stack crepes between pieces of parchment to cool and hold for assembly.
4. Season the tenderloin on all sides insuring that the surface is dry with a paper towel. In a very hot pan add a little oil and sear the tenderloin for about 2 minutes perside, keeping the searing time and heat even. Make sure that the beef is caramelized nicely and then set aside on a rack to cool.
5. Assemble. Take 4-6 crepes and overlap them on a board surface to create a rectangular piece that is wide enough to wrap around the tenderloin and overlap. Smear the crepes with a layer of the duck liver mouse and then smear all the duxelle covering the crepes. Place the tenderloin in the middle, vertically, and tightly wrap the beef with the smothered crepes.
6. Roll out the puff pastry on another board and carefully place the seam side of the beef down on the puff pastry and evenly wrap the beef tightly. Secure with eggwash to seal.
7. At this point you trim the excess pastry in order to seal up the ends of the tenderloin very much like wrapping a present. You can use these excess pieces to re roll and cut out shapes or designs to personalize your Wellington too. (See how we had two with different decorations: Freedom Beef and Spidy Beef- clearing my husband was sous-chefing at this point in Christmas madness-guess who got to decorate the beef….)
8. Egg wash the entire puff pastry and place it on a baking tray and in the oven at 400 F for 5 minutes, then drop the oven to 375 F and continue to cook for 20 minutes. Check if the crust is golden and cooked all around and trust your instincts when you think the meat may be ready. I find it can take up to 10 minutes longer, but no more than that.
9. The Sauce: this can be made during assembly or while in the oven. Saute the beef trimming till golden and caramelized in a large pot. Add the mirepoix and cook continuing till the vegetables are roasted and caramelized as well. Drain off any fat and while the pan is hot deglaze with the red wine, scrapping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the stock to cover and bouqet garnis and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let simmer lightly until reduced by half- 3/4’s, skimming off the fat continuously. Taste and season. Pass through a chinoise/strainer with ice to remove all solids, and take the remaining sauce back to the stove to bring to consistency. Taste and season and reserve to serve poured over the beef.
10. When the beef is done, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes, tented with aluminum foil. To cut: take a serated knife and slice 1/2 portions cleanly placing them on the center of the plate. garnish with the simple beef jus and serve.
If done right, this is a knock out. And knock out it will do: after this meal my winter’s nap lasted some 13 hours… it was a Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!