That awkward moment when you frantically fling open the door of the yoga studio thinking you’re late – only to realize you’ve barged in on the tail end of of an earlier class and have totally marshed everyone’s Shavasana-mallow….
That awkward moment when you’re at your Christmas party and realize it’s up to you to introduce two friends – but suddenly have temporary spiked-cider induced amnesia and can’t remember one of their names….
That awkward moment when you finally have a hot second to get a new post up on your blog – and realize you’ve been radio silent for SIX long*** WEEKS….
Eeerrmm…..guilty on all counts? I don’t really know how else to just bust back up in here without acknowledging that I have been anything but totally absent, and feel compelled to admit that even in the weeks leading up to my blog-cliff dive I have been sporadic, at best. I’m sorry. Again. You see there have been a lot of changes around here, all good, and all timely, but unfortunately they all squeegee’d up my time faster than that god-awful Shamwow whatsamahoozie, and left me without any free space to sit down and write anything that would be worth reading.
(And before you ask – no, I’m not pregnant!)
There was a camera lens that started acting up, and a MacBook that caught a cold, and defiantly staged protests by refusing to upload pictures or act properly in any sense. There was a (big, super fun) Christmas party at our house – complete with a DJ, mini tarragon shrimp salad rolls, and keg of Deschute’s. There was a best friend’s 30th birthday, celebrated right here with us in Boulder, and a long-weekend full of brunching, lunching, feting, and candle-blowing. There have been early mornings at the bakery, hundreds of pies, thousands of Christmas cookies, and long days spent on my feet, covered in flour and wearing an apron. But, perhaps most time consuming and important of all, there was an impromptu trip to Australia (an oxymoron, I realize), who’s opportunity reared it’s head with barely any notice, and who’s length spanned two full weeks, spent blissfully on the other side of planet Earth.
(More on that to come later, I promise!)
But I am back now, feet firmly planted in Boulder, umpteen loads of laundry done, fire roaring, tree still twinkling, and with a few wonderfully empty days behind my back, and some time to attend to the important things; mainly, my little lovely space here.
I figure if I went out with a fizzle then I’d better come back with a bang, and this classic Beef Wellington dish is just the ticket. It seriously goes down as one of the best things I made in all of 2012, and was precisely what James and I sat down to during our tiny little Christmas celebration – with just the two of us – almost one week ago.
It looks fancy, and, being that beef tenderloin is the gold bar of the butcher case – it kinda is. It’s the sort of thing that you want to save for a special occasion, but only because of the dent it will put in your wallet, and not at all because of it’s difficultly. This was the first Beef Wellington I have ever made, and though there are a few steps involved, none of them are difficult, rendering this as more of a totally doable mini-project than white-knuckled kitchen experiment. (Because really, who wants to experiment with $28.99/lb beef?! Not I.)
It’s perfect for a birthday, anniversary, New Years Eve dinner (there is still time!!) or……sheepish cough…..a triumphant return back to your blog.
The key to Beef Wellington Nirvana is making absolutely sure you cook the beef to the right temperature, which, seeing as it’s all wrapped up in a luscious three-layer jacket of mushroom duxelles, prosciutto, and buttery puff pastry, is not an easy feat.
You’ll need to arm yourself with a meat thermometer and the wherewithal not to wander away from the stove too long while you sip your glass of white wine and shimmy down to some heady Christmas tunes. (Take it from someone who was totally saved by an old-fashioned timer.)
If you keep your eye on it and pull it out of the oven when the center of the beef is just registering 118-120F, you’ll be handsomely rewarded with juicy and tender medium-rare beef, savory layers of herby mushrooms and salty prosciutto, and a crisped up outer shell of buttery and decadent puff pastry. It is a winning combination, and one that has certainly earned it’s place in my repertoire of special occasion “need-to-wow-’em” suppers.
Take this Beef Wellington as a peace offering of sorts; an olive-branch of good will, and an apology that I have (temporarily) abandoned something I am so honored and touched that you take the time to read.
My Mac is feeling better after a little vacation in the shop, and my camera’s lens just needed a little TLC from the boy’s at Mike’s; I’ve got an Australia recap tee’d up and almost ready to go, and no less than 15 recipes I’m working into some new posts. I’ve got heaps of things on the horizon, but solemnly swear to keep any more awkward silences from invading my little corner of the interwebs.
The Best Ever Classic Beef Wellington
Serves 2 (with a good bit of leftovers) or 4 (with less leftover)
Inspired by and loosely adapted from Gordon Ramsey
I would plan on about 1/2 lb (8 oz) of beef per person, and then add a little extra onto that so you have leftovers. I made the amount below just for the two of us, and though we had a good bit leftover, it was perfect sliced and heated up over the following days, and kept really well in the fridge.
To speed up the browning process of the beef, rest it in the corner of the pan, so that it is exposed to not only the hot bottom of the pan, but also the hot side, thus browning more quickly.
Beef tenderloin is a super lean cut of beef, and one that I think most would agree tastes best when cooked no more than barely medium. I pulled my tenderloin when it was 118 degrees in the center, and let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it, giving me a perfect medium-rare (that is, still pink in the middle, but not translucent at all). Beef tenderloin is not cheap, and trust me – after shelling out all of that dough for such a nice cut, you do not want to overcook it, so be very diligent when watching the clock and temperature of your Wellington.
Many may like to eat this plain, without a sauce, but I threw together a quick sour cream sauce that I thought complemented the flavor of the beef well: simply saute 1/2 of a large onion that has been grated (or very finely chopped) with a bit of butter over medium heat, and when it is very soft and translucent (15 minutes or so), add in a few grinds of pepper, pinch of salt, and tip of white wine. Reduce the wine, and then add in a few tablespoons of sour cream, and stir until the mixture thickens. Thin with water to a consistency of your liking (I made mine to about the consistency of a salad dressing), and serve it, warm, alongside the beef.
2 lbs beef tenderloin
1 pound (16 oz) baby bella, cremini, or white button mushrooms
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
sage & rosemary – a few tablespoons of each, minced up finely
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup of dry white wine
12 slices good prosciutto
1 package all-butter puff pastry, defrosted (I like Dufour brand)
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
egg wash – 2 egg yolks and a dash of cream, whisked together well
tools: meat thermometer, food processor
1. Heat a heavy skillet (I used cast iron) over high heat with just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Season your beef tenderloin well with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. When the pan is screaming hot, add the tenderloin, and sear it well on all sides; you are not trying to cook the beef through, but rather are just looking to get a nice deep golden brown and crisp crust on all sides of the tenderloin. Set the seared tenderloin to the side on a plate, and take the skillet off the heat.
2. Place the whole mushrooms in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them until they are very, very finely chopped; make sure you don’t process them so much that you make a messy paste, you just want them to be very finely diced – about the size and texture of panko breadcrumbs.
3. Place your skillet back on the heat over medium-low, and add the butter to the rendered beef fat and juices that are already in the pan. When the butter is melted, add the finely diced mushrooms, chopped sage and rosemary, and a big pinch of salt, and stir well to combine. Let the mushrooms cook, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid that will be released from them has evaporated, about 10 minutes. When the mushrooms have released/evaporated their liquid, turn the heat up to medium-high, add the white wine and garlic, and stir well. Let the wine cook off and evaporate again, another 10 minutes or so. At this stage, make sure you allow the mushrooms to become very dry, as any liquid left in them will seep out and make the puff pastry soggy. Taste the mushrooms, adjust your salt level if needed, and take your finished ‘duxelles‘ off the heat (the fancy French word for the savory mushroom “paste” you have just created).
4. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and carefully arrange and overlap the prosciutto slices over the top, 6 slices wide by 2 tall, in a large rectangular shape. On top of this prosciutto “carpet”, carefully spread the mushroom duxelles, making sure it is spread evenly over the top and to the edges. Using a pastry brush, brush the seared beef tenderloin with your dijon mustard, and then place the mustard-coated beef on top of the duxelles in the center of the rectangle. Carefully lift the sides of the plastic wrap up around the beef (thus pressing the mushroom covered prosciutto against the beef), and gently guide the prosciutto so that it is competely enveloping the beef. tuck any rough sides under (these end bits will make for delicious chef’s nibbles after the Wellington is baked up!). Carefully twist the sides of the wrap so you have a sort of sausage-looking parcel that is tightly encased in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.
***If you like, you can prepare the Wellington through this step up to 24 hours ahead of time, leaving you only the step of wrapping it in pastry and baking it the day you plan to serve it.***
5. when you are ready to cook the Wellington, preheat your oven to 400F. Roll the defrosted puff pastry out on a lightly floured surface so that it is big enough to accommodate your beef (it should be wider than it is tall, a rectangle, but like wrapping paper on a present, it should JUST be big enough to wrap around the beef, with not too much extra). Gently place the beef top side down (that is, the part you want to be the top touching the pastry) in the middle of the pastry, and carefully wrap the ends of the pastry up around the beef, following with the sides. Tamp down all of the seams with the tines of a fork to ensure that the pastry doesn’t pop open while the beef cooks, and trim any excessive pastry from the Wellington (you can reserve it for another use).
6. Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet, and place the Wellington seam side down on the sheet (the wire rack is to prevent the pastry from sitting in the beef’s juices and getting soggy). Using the back of a butter knife, make diagonal lines across the top of the pastry, making sure not to cut through the pastry at all (this is a decorative step and will make the pastry bake up with pretty little lines across the top). Using a pastry brush, coat the entire Wellington with a thin layer of egg wash.
7. Pop the Wellington in the oven, and cook it for about 30 minutes, or until the beef is cooked to your liking in the center and the pastry is a lovely golden brown. I recommend checking the beef after 20-25 minutes to track how fast it is cooking, and pulling it when the beef registers 118F on a meat thermometer in the center for medium rare. I will stress that you do not want to overcook the tenderloin, and to err on the side of checking the temperature sooner rather than later to avoid any unpleasant and overcooked surprises.
8. Let the cooked Wellington rest for at least 10 minutes, and then carefully slice it into rounds. I served mine with charred asparagus and mashed rutabega, and it was delicious; this is a dish that begs for a mashed starch of some sort on the side, and I think mashed potatoes, parsnips, or celery root would go equally well.