A How-To Guide For The Woman Who Doesn’t Cook
Now, before you get your knickers in a twist over the sheer fear of cooking a steak perfectly to medium rare while simultaneously baking a pastry to a flawless crispy brown, let me explain!
Beef Wellington began in Britain, sort of. History suggests it was created in celebration of the Duke of Wellington and his victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815; the Duke then went on to become the Prime Minister, in fact. Having said that, the Greeks and the French steak claim to this dish but for the purposes of today, I’m going to ignore those stories and celebrate the Brits for coming up with such a concept! This recipe was made more famous when American’s took to it, including Richard Nixon, who claimed it was his favourite dish, and after it was featured on Julia Child’s show “The French Chef”.
So many dishes come out of necessity of the time in which they were created; stews used to tenderize meat, or pickling when freezing and access to fresh ingredients was impossible. Unlike those dishes, however, I can’t find any real proof that wrapping beef in a pastry has any imminent need. Instead, the dish appears to have been a favourite among aristocrats who got to enjoy the luxury of a fine cut of beef, wrapped wonderfully by a delicate paté, then blanketed by a buttery, puffy pastry. Seriously, after I describe it, what is not to love here?!
So, how can you, a non-chef, prepare such a show-stopping dish? Easily. I did it, so that means anyone can. Follow my loose instructions below and add your own twist. I have two important messages before you begin though:
1. Be sure to let the items cool in the fridge — do not skip any one of these steps!
2. Try first with individually wrapped medallions vs. one big log as it’s much easier to control.
Other than that, have fun! You are cooking and eating like the Duke of Wellington himself after a victorious battle, and battle this very well may be. Be sure to pour some wine and take lots of pictures of your masterpiece to impress all of your friends on social media! (In fact, tag me @laurastewartto😉)
INGREDIENTS — Use your gut and when in doubt, more is more!
Beef — 2 tenderloin medallions (be reasonable, it’s a heavy dish)
Mushrooms — any assortment will do; we used a pint of cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
Shallots — 2 big suckers finely chopped
Garlic — 4 cuz we like it garlicy, finely chopped
Thyme — all the leaves from 1/3 of a bunch (if you’re super lazy, like I am, use dried, because getting these leaves off without any stems is the most annoying task and I almost quit after this)
Puff Pastry — we found these in the frozen section; you do roll it out so you probably need less than you think you need (1 package should do)
Prosciutto — 6–8 thin slices
English Mustard — I’m told French or American simply will not do, it must be English! You need enough to slab on a thick coat to cover the beef on all sides so what is that like a couple table spoons?
Egg Yolks — 2 beaten
White Wine — you only need 2–3oz so get whatever you like drinking really
All Purpose Flour — 1/3 of a cup maybe, maybe more….
Butter — ½ a stick
Olive Oil — couple table spoons
Plastic Wrap (sorry to my environmentally conscious peeps, I haven’t yet purchased bee’s wax paper, but I will!)
Pre-heat oven to 425°C (honestly this can be done way later in the process but recipes always put it at the start, so I did too)
Take beef and puff pastry out of the fridge. Honestly this is important!
Chop mushrooms, garlic, shallots.
Remove leaves from Thyme and chop if necessary. I chopped simply to disguise some of the stems that made it into my mound….oh well!
Coat a non-stick pan with olive oil, put on medium heat and add the mushrooms. After a few minutes, add the garlic, shallots, thyme, 2/3rds of the butter. Continue to stir and then pour in the wine. Continue stirring until the moisture has all been cooked off. Set a side on a plate to cool.
In that same pan, take the rest of the butter and melt on medium heat. Turn heat up to medium high and sear the beef, including the sides. Be sure not to burn the butter! Set medallions on a plate and lather mustard all around, including the sides. Be liberal with the amount if you really like mustard…this was honestly my favourite part of the whole dish! Place in fridge to cool for 20 minutes.
Lay a layer of plastic wrap down on your counter, enough to wrap around the full medallion and then some. In the centre lay down 3 slices of Prosciutto, slightly overlaying the sides to form almost a square. Depending on the thickness of the prosciutto, you may want to lay another slice horizontally across the middle to ensure the moisture will not seep out of the beef.
Spoon half of the mushrooms into the centre of your prosciutto square and press down until the radius is just slightly larger than your medallion. Try to keep the centre a little higher.
Once the beef is cold, place one medallion on top of your mushroom mountain. Fold all sides of the prosciutto around the beef. If the slices make it all the way to the back covering all of the beef then simply wrap your plastic wrap around tightly, place back in fridge. If not, you may want to add another layer of prosciutto on the bottom. Regardless, wrap tightly and place in fridge.
Line a baking tray with tin foil and then parchment paper. The tin foil is to keep me from scrubbing dirty dishes for hours and the parchment paper is to keep you beautiful little Beef Wellington from sticking. Set aside.
Beat your egg yolks together.
Sprinkle flower on your countertop. Roll out two circles large enough to surround your prosciutto wrapped beef. Get it quite thin because as the name describes, this pastry puffs up.
Set the prosciutto wrapped beef in the centre of your pastry and fold the sides up. Although you do want the sides to be overlapping slightly, any excess pastry you can cut off…but keep! Use the egg yolk to seal in the corners and sides. Flip over and lay on your baking tray. Place in fridge to set.
Remove Wellingtons from the fridge and paint all over with your leftover egg yolks. At this point if you want to make marks on the top to make it “pretty” feel free to do so. I used a butter knife to make a bit of a checkerboard. Be sure to not cut through the pastry though.
Put tray in oven and cook for 25 minutes. Unfortunately, there’s no real easy way of knowing if you’ve over or under cooked your beef and so I say just have confidence and enjoy your wine!
Add your scraps of pastry back together, roll out cut a couple of rounds, brush with egg yolk and add to tray when there’s roughly 10 minutes left to cook. If your pastry gets soggy, you will be thankful for these wonderfully crispy pieces later on.
The pastry should be mostly golden brown and that’s a good sign it should be done. Remove tray from oven and make sure you let it rest for 10 minutes!! I know, I know, you are dying to cut it open, but resist the urge, trust me.
Move to cutting board and slice it half. Serve next to your favourite side dishes. May I suggest roasted carrots and brussels sprouts!
Enjoy you badass chef you! You just cooked Beef Wellington like the nobles once did!
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