The Dictator-For-Life Of Holiday Roasts
The ultimate in luxurious roasts, Beef Wellington combines beef tenderloin, a rich mushroom duxelles, foie gras, and prosciutto, all wrapped in a buttery puff pastry crust.
Lay Out The Twine
Start with a center-cut trimmed beef tenderloin, also known as a châteaubriand. Lay out an array of lengths of kitchen twine long enough to wrap up your tenderloin and start tying. To ensure the ties don't slip as you form tighten them, cross the ends over three times before trying to tie the granny knot.
Work Towards The Center
Start from the outside and alternate between sides to work towards the center. This will help give it a more uniform shape.
Trim the ends of the twine.
Season the tenderloin liberally on all sides with salt and pepper.
Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a stainless steel or cast iron pan until it starts to smoke, then carefully sear the tenderloin on all sides to develop flavor.
Remove the twine and discard it.
Rub with Horseradish Mixture
When it's cool enough to handle, rub the tenderloin with a mixture of 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish to 1 tablespoon dijon or spicy brown mustard, along with plenty of black pepper. This will help add a bit of heat and acid to cut through the relentless richness of the dish. Transfer the tenderloin to a plate and refrigerate it.
Gather Your 'Shrooms
Gather a pound of mushrooms. They can be all white mushrooms, or a mix of whatever you'd like. I'm using white, shiitake, and portobello. Clean them, trim them, and roughly chop them.
Place the mushrooms in the food processor in batches, pulsing to finely chop them and using a spatula to make sure the chop evenly.
What We Want
This is the texture you're looking for. Finely chopped, but not pureed.
Mince a couple shallots very finely and set aside.
Mince some thyme and set it aside. It's a pain in the butt to pick those tiny leaves, but the flavor is worth it in the end. Trust me on this one.
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Does 4 tablespoons seem like it's a lot? Like it's decadent? That's because it is.
Cook the 'Shrooms
Add the mushrooms and cook them, stirring. You'll notice that at first they'll give off a ton of moisture. That's fine. just keep cooking as that moisture evaporates and eventually...
Brown the 'Shrooms
...they'll start to brown. Keep cooking until they leave a browned residue on the bottom of the skillet. In all, this should take about 12 minutes.
Add Shallots and Thyme
Add those shallots and thyme. The shallots will release a bit of moisture, allowing you to scrape up some of those browned bits. Keep cooking until the shallots are softened and the sizzling starts again, about 2 minutes longer.
Deglaze with a couple glugs of Cognac. Or Armagnac. Or any other brandy. Or Bourbon. Or Scotch. Or... whatever liquor suits you best. Just keep it unsweetened.
Add a half cup of heavy cream and continue to cook. The heavy cream will rapidly start to thicken, binding the whole mixture together.
Add Soy Sauce
It's hardly a traditional ingredient, but soy sauce will help up the umami-factor in the shrooms, making them taste meatier and more savory.
Keep cooking until the mushroom mixture forms a single tight mass when you shake the pan around. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate it.
Season Your Foie Gras
Season a couple of slabs of foie gras liberally with salt and pepper. (You can skip this step if you are planning on using a foie gras pâté).
Sear the foie in a hot hot skillet just until browned on both sides, about 30 seconds per side, using a thin offset spatula to turn.
Transfer the seared foie to a paper towel and allow it to rest for a minute.
Don't Forget The Fat!
Pour the rendered foie fat into the mushroom mixture, stir to combine, season to taste with salt and pepper, and return it to the fridge.
Split the Foie
Split the foie gras in half horizontally.
If all went well, it should be a perfect medium-rare in the center.
Traditional Wellington recipes call for a crepe to be wrapped around the beef. I prefer to use a sheet of fillo dough. It's thinner, so doesn't get in the way like a crepe does, it's more uniform in thickness, it's nicely shaped, and best of all, I can just buy a sheet instead of having to make a crepe from scratch. No brainer.
The fillo goes on top of a double layer of plastic wrap, then it gets shingled with thin-sliced prosciutto. I used LaQuercia brand prosciutto from Iowa. It's awesome stuff.
Spread the 'Shrooms
Spread the mushroom mixture evenly over the prosciutto.
Lay The Beef
Place the beef roll along the bottom edge, and the foie gras slices on top. Start rolling by lifting the fillo dough using the plastic wrap as a sling.
Use Your Fingertips
Use your fingertips to push the beef and foie gras backwards as you roll forwards, keeping the package nice and tight.
Keep rolling away from you (make sure not to roll the plastic wrap right into the Wellington!), keeping everything nice and tight.
When you get to the end, re-wrap the whole roll in the plastic wrap, getting it as tight as you can.
Wrap the roll in a new sheet of plastic wrap a couple fee long, rolling the beef up the short way so that the ends of the wrap extend far beyond the ends of the roll. Twist the ends tightly.
Wrap one last time, pulling the plastic as tight as it can go. Getting the roll very tight is essential to good presentation, and with Wellington, looks are almost as important as flavor. Chill the beef in the fridge for at least half an hour at this stage.
Roll the Pastry
Use frozen or homemade puff pastry. Roll it out on a lightly floured board until it forms a rectangle where the short end is at least 4 inches wider than the beef roll.
Place and Brush
Place the beef roll along the bottom edge of the pastry sheet (lower than is shown in this photograph!) with the foie gras-laden side facing up, and brush the area above it with a beaten egg.
Roll and Trim
Roll the beef up until it is completely wrapped in pastry. Trim off the excess. If all went well, the beef should now be wrapped in the pastry with the foie gras-laden side facing up and the seam along the bottom.
Working with one side of the beef roll at a time, fold in the sides of the overhanging edges of the puff pastry towards the center, then fold the top flap down pretending you are wrapping a present. If you are not so good at wrapping presents, pretend you are wrapping a present the way somebody who is very good at wrapping presents wraps presents.
Use a sharp knife to trim off the bottom flap.
Flip and Tuck
Once both sides have been folded, flip the roll over and tuck the flaps down, sealing so that they end up stuck to the bottom of the roll. Transfer the whole thing to a plate and chill it again while you preheat the oven to 425°F.
Ready For Its Paint Job
With the oven preheated, transfer the Wellington to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, seam-side down.
Brush it all over with beaten egg, making sure to get every surface. This will help create a glossy glaze and improve browning.
Use a sharp paring knife to score the Wellington into a pretty decorative pattern.
Sprinkle the top surface liberally with coarse sea salt. I use Maldon.
Bake the Wellington until the exterior is golden brown and the center registers 110 to 115°F for rare, or 120°F for medium-rare. This will take about 35 to 40 minutes.
Let It Rest
Let the Wellington rest for 10 minutes on the baking sheet to cool slightly, allow juices inside to redistribute, and to allow the puff pastry to harden a bit. Then transfer it to a cutting board, carefully removing it from the foil so that it doesn't break open.
Trim off the ends with a sharp slicing knife. Eat them immediately before anyone notices.
Slice the Wellington into thick slices, using a smooth sawing motion to get through the pastry without crushing it.
Serve the Wellington, laying slices flat and sprinkling with chopped chives and more coarse salt. Take a bow. You've done well, my friend.