Beef wellington

Beef Wellington

B has always wanted to make a Beef Wellington for Christmas dinner, and he was so excited to make it this year when his brother Alan came to visit for 2 weeks. They had a great time fishing, crabbing, shooting skeet, and of course cooking meats/BBQ/eating lots of Seattle’s finest food. 

We always joke that when Alan visits, our red meat intake quadriples. 

B’s brother sadly couldn’t stay til Christmas day, so we had our “Christmas dinner” early. They used Gordon Ramsey’s Beef Wellington recipe, but just left out the red wine sauce. This is probably a travesty to Beef Wellington purists, but we were very happy with how it tasted (and the Wellingtons had plenty of steps already). I felt it had plenty of flavor going on already. Some versions have pâté too, but I don’t like pâté, and Gordon Ramsey’s version doesn’t contain it.

Beef wellington

I’ve only had Beef Wellington once before when my mother made it for Christmas years ago. She made individual round Wellingtons, but I think the log version is much easier for a group (probably why my mother only made it once and never again lol).

This history of the Beef Wellington seems vague. Historians believe it’s named after Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington and the man who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. While some say his cook made it for him,  there’s no mention of Beef Wellington in any British or French period cookbooks. There’s debate over whether its origin is French, English, Irish, or African (sourcesourcesource).

Beef wellington slicing

It was published for the first time in a Polish cookbook in 1910 just like how it’s presented today, where it was a beef filet enveloped with duxelles in puff pastry, baked, and served with a sauce. Beef Wellington does not show up in any English cookbook until 1970 surprisingly. Beef Wellington then became extremely popular in America in the 1960s and 1970s, largely thanks to Julia Child (sourcesourcesource).

Of note, the first time they baked it, my husband and his brother were puzzled that their Wellingtons weren’t cooked at all after 30 min. Turns out that Gordon Ramsey’s recipe called to bake it at 200°C (and they mistakenly put it at 200°F). We like it around 400°F and will reduce it to 375°F to avoid overbrowning since we bake it in a toaster oven.

Beef Wellington

3 lbs beef tenderloin (about 1 1/2 lb per piece)
Olive oil, for frying
2 lbs mushrooms, cleaned (we used baby bella)
4 shallots
Thyme sprig, leaves only
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 puff pastry pieces (we used frozen)
6-8 slices of prosciutto per tenderloin
2 egg yolks, beaten per tenderloin
Cut your beef tenderloin to make a log about 1 1/2 lbs. Wrap each piece of beef tightly with cling wrap to set its shape and chill overnight.
Remove the cling wrap, then quickly sear the beef fillets in a hot pan with a little olive oil for 30-60 seconds until browned all over and rare in the middle. Remove from the pan and leave to cool.
Finely chop (we used a food processor) the mushrooms and fry in a hot pan with olive oil, shallots, and thyme leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste. When the mushrooms begin to release their juices, continue to cook over a high heat for about 10 minutes until all the excess moisture has evaporated and you are left with a mushroom paste (known as a duxelle). Make sure this is dry or your pastry will be soggy. Remove the duxelle from the pan and leave to cool.
Place puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll each piece into a rectangle large enough to envelop one of the beef fillets. Chill in the refrigerator.
Lay a large sheet of cling film on a work surface and place slices of prosciutto in the middle, overlapping them slightly, to create a rectangle. Spread half the duxelle evenly over the prosciutto.
Season the beef fillets with salt and pepper, then place them on top of the mushroom-covered ham. Spread a thin layer of mustard. Using the cling film, roll the prosciutto over the beef, then roll and tie the cling film to get a nice, evenly thick log. Repeat this step with the other beef fillet, then chill for at least 30 minutes.
Remove the cling film from the beef, then wrap the pastry around each ham-wrapped fillet. Trim the pastry and brush all over with the egg wash (use the entire egg per log). Score the pastry lightly, then bake at 400°F for 15 minutes, then reduce to 375°F for another 10-15 min  until the pastry is golden brown and cooked. Rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

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