Bloomsbury Beef Wellington
First comes the shopping! For a good beef wellington you must purchase quality items. We buy trimmed beef tenderloin, 1 ½ inch thick. The pate is always a duck/goose liver pate…no chicken and no additives such as port wine or peppercorns. Mushrooms, parsley and scallions: mixed mushrooms, only fresh, are a good choice. And, quality frozen puff pastry is a must. Everything else in this recipe is standard kitchen staples…but, check the list to ensure you have everything. This entree is perfect for “farm to table” fare.
Puff Pastry. Be sure to remove your dough from the freezer to the countertop to defrost. You do not want to let it get warm, but you want it to defrost to the point you can unfold, cut the pastry into a small square that will encase the tenderloins. You can always place the pastry in the refrig vs freezer for 3 days before use…we just use freezer to countertop.
Pate. The easy step, slice into ¼ inch slices. You will only need one slice per tenderloin. The pate needs to be a very rich (not $80.00 a pound rich) item.
Tenderloin. We purchase and prepare individual wellingtons (often times people make them with the whole tenderloin); but, individual wellingtons allow you to cook the tenderloin to the desired temperature for each guest. Our dinner guests range from rare to well-done (yikes) and it is our desire to please everyone. One and 1/2 inch tenderloins are a great size…we usually have part of the wellington for dinner and save the other half for lunch the next day…1 1/2 inch is a large portion of meat. Yes, you can purchase thinner, but you sacrifice the end product…just go 1 1/2 and save some for the next day!
Extra virgin olive oil
Very carefully dry the meat on/with non-linting paper towel. In a very heavy skillet (we use grandmother’s iron skillet), heat the olive oil. Sear the tenderloins, top/bottom/all sides, in the olive oil. This is the point at which you control the final meat temperature. For the rare lovers, just quickly sear…for those who prefer a little more done, sear a little longer. Salt/pepper. Set the meat aside to rest and to completely cool.
Mushroom duxelles. The mushrooms are chopped finely and then cooked until all of the juice is gone. “No juice” is critical to ensure the outer puff pastry is not soggy. Once you cook/remove your duxelles, if you find it is moist, rest it on paper towel to ensure it is not juicy.
1 pound mixed mushrooms, well chopped
1 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
2 TBS fresh parsley (or, 3 TBS dried) 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup dry white wine
Place all ingredients except the white wine in a large skillet and cook on low, stirring almost constantly. You do not want to allow your mushrooms/scallions to “fry”. It will take 20+ minutes to have them fully cooked to a rather pasty state. Add the white wine and continue to cook until all juice is gone. Set aside to cool.
Crepe or not. Many recipes call for inserting crepes when you assemble the wellington. We have done with and without. If the duxelles is prepared properly/dry, you will not need the crepe. I have not included the crepe in this recipe as we think it adds nothing but another dough layer. (So, make beautiful crepes and serve them with fresh fruit or chocolate for breakfast.) Likewise, some recipes call for thin slices of cured ham…have never used it.
Sauce or not. We make a basic red wine or port sauce, laced with scallions to serve over the entrée. Any basic recipe (that does not used packaged gravy mix) works well. We reduce the wine by ½, add the scallions and continue to cook for a few minutes…thicken with cornstarch slurry (one tablespoon in ¼ cup cold water). and serve.
Egg Wash. You will need an egg wash twice. One whole egg and one tablespoon of water, whisk together.
With everything cooled, it is time to assemble the wellington. Lay out your squares of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Add a very thin layer of duxelles all over the pastry…leaving about ½ inch of the pastry edge not covered. Lay the slice of pate in the center on top of the pate. Place the tenderloin on the pate. Paint the egg wash around the edge of the pate where you did not place duxelles. Pull the pastry up around the tenderloin and make sure it is fully covered; the egg wash will make it stick to itself. Be sure it is tight and formed into a compact bundle. In a nice sized square of plastic wrap, place the wellington at one edge and roll up very tightly, twist the ends and allow the wellington to rest in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook it. Prep in the morning after the crepe breakfast and cook in the evening. A nice glass of white wine makes the cooking step much more enjoyable.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Unwrap the wellington, score the top with a knife point or decorate with extra puff pastry leaves. We actually cut initials from the puff pastry and place on each individual tenderloin to ensure that each guest receives one prepared to their desired meet temperature. Paint the entire wellington with the egg wash; this will ensure a nice, crisp, well-browned exterior. Lower the oven temp to 375. Place the wellingtons on a heavy baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 -25 minutes or until the interior temperature reaches 135 degrees.
Allow the wellington to rest for at least 10 minutes before you plate it. Fresh sautéed asparagus makes a perfect side to this very rich entrée. A nice, medium-bodied red Zinfandel matches perfectly—be careful to select a medium-bodied wine as a heavy wine overpowers all the flavor layers of this dish. Sounds complicated…it is not. This has become our “Happy New Year” dinner menu. Just do your prep early in the morning and bake when you are ready to serve. It is so delicious!!! Happy New Year. Gail Prince and katherine Brown