Andy's Beef Wellington

We enjoyed Christmas with guests and served Beef Wellington, having been inspired by Jamie Oliver's recipe highlighted in the Times. We had three people (he preps for six) and we prefer a different gravy. So we struck out on our own.

As he points out:
Beef Wellington celebrates the luxurious and very tender fillet of beef and is one of those ultimate blow-out dishes that hits the right spot several times in one meal. When you’ve made this once, you’ll get a sense of how you can perfect it in your oven and make it work for parties and special occasions. Once prepared, it’s super-easy to cook and serve.
Well, maybe not super-easy, but easy enough. But it took twice the amount of time he cites.


For many ingredients there is stuff and then, there's Stuff. 

All of a particular type of stuff are not the same. In short, read up on the ingredients and read the label:

• Puff pastry:
º Make it yourself (cringe) or buy it.

º Buy it:
- Dufour:
Real butter puff pastry, but a box is $50 and has twelve sheets. Better to find a retail version, which we could not.

- Stop and Shop generic:
Made with margerine

- Pepperidge Farm:
Made with shortening

• Truffle Oil:
º Color refers to the truffle, not the color of the oil itself
- Black truffle: strong
- White truffle: more subtle

º Type refers to whether made from actual truffles ("infused") or from synthetics ("aroma"). We got the real thing.

•  "Best by" dates:
º Our wild rice was past the "Best By" date, but looked fine so we proceeded. It did not ever fluff up. So pay attention to the Best By times.

• Baking:
º The bottom of the Wellington became soggy. Next time investigate Keeping placing it on a small rack to allow drainage and bottom crisping.

º The oven is warmer in the rear than the front. Rotate both Wellington and bread half way through to even the browning.

Cooking the beef

Details of ingredients are further down the page. On a flour-dusted surface, roll out the pastry to 6"X8". 
Spread the mushroom pâté over the pastry, leaving a 5cm (2") gap at either end and at the edge furthest away from you. Eggwash these edges. 
Sit the beef on the pâté, then, starting with the edge nearest you, snugly wrap the pastry around the beef, pinching the ends to seal.

Transfer the Wellington onto a large baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, with the pastry seal at the base, and brush all over with eggwash. (You can prep to this stage, then refrigerate until needed — just get it out 1½ hours before cooking so it’s not fridge-cold.)

Investigate using a low cake rack with parchment paper to keep the Wellington bottom out of its own juices.
When you’re ready to cook, heat the tray on the hob for a couple of minutes to start crisping up the base, then transfer to the oven and cook for 40 minutes for blushing (60 minutes for somewhat more done, pink on the inside), juicy beef  — the two end portions will be more cooked, but usually some people prefer that.
Use a meat thermometer. Remove at 130°F to rest for medium rare in the center, well done on the ends.
Once cooked, rest the Wellington for 5 minutes, then serve in 2cm (1") -thick slices with the gravy and steamed greens.


For the gravies

a. Andy's version:

1  sprig of fresh thyme
4 cloves of garlic
1 cup Italian parsley leaves
250 ml dry red wine, e.g., Malbec
1 tbsp plain flour dissolved in 50 ml water
300  ml (1 tsp Beef Better than Bouillion) organic beef stock (hot)
(juice of ¼ lemon)

Bring 300 ml water to a boil in a small pot. Add Better than Bouillon and dissolve to make the stock. Lower to a simmer. Chop the thyme, garlic, and parsley finely, add to stock.

Add the wine and flour water. Bring to a boil to cook the flour (about four minutes: watch this or it will boil over). Stir and  the heat to a simmer. Simmer to reduce to desired consistency (~15 minutes). Pass through a sieve, or leave chunky.

b. Jamie's version:

This is a bit sweeter than I like.

  • Clearly your choice. Jamie's recipe includes an interesting sauce including black currant jam, Madeira, English mustard, beef stock, and flour. I did not particularly care for it, so also did my own red wine reduction gravy, comprising red wine, garlic, parsley, thyme, lemon juice, beef stock, and flour. I pray I may learn to do a proper glacé before I die.
  • We chose wild rice, but some prefer potatoes.
  • We chose French green beans, others might prefer salad or asparagus. Jamie seems to prefer broccoli florets.

Serves: 3
Cooking: ~4½ hours:
Day 1:  ~1½ hours
Day2:  ~3 hours

1 lb centre fillet of beef (Chateaubriand), trimmed (the timings here work perfectly for a fillet of roughly 10cm (4") in diameter)
Olive oil
2 (1 inch²) large knobs of salted butter
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 bunches of Italian parsley
(½) red onion
6 cloves of garlic
½ lb mixed mushrooms
1½ tsp worcestershire sauce
½ tsp truffle oil (optional) See "Subleties" above.
50g fresh breadcrumbs
.6 lb block of puff pastry See "Subleties" above.
1 large free-range egg
1 lemon

This is a complex task. Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

Day 1 elapsed time: ~1½ hour.
Obtain the ingredients and do the sous chef the day before the event:

• Meat
• Potatoes
• Wild Rice
• French greens
• Puff pastry
• Truffle oil
• Onions
• Garlic
• Parsley
• Thyme
• Rosemary

º Heat a large frying pan on a high heat. Rub the beef all over with sea salt (we demurred on black pepper). Pour a good lug of oil into the pan, then add the beef, 1 knob (on inch cube) of butter and 1 finely chopped sprig of rosemary. Sear the beef for 4 minutes in total, turning regularly with tongs, then remove to a plate to cool. Internal temperature should be no higher than 120°F (Very Rare), so pay attention to not overcook. Wrap it in plastic wrap when cool and put in refrigerator for the next day. (~15 minutes)

º Chop the mushrooms, onion, parsley, thyme, and rosemary finely, reserving the mushroom stalks for the gravies. This is known as duxelle, described in the Joy of Cooking.  Peel the onion and garlic, then very finely chop with the mushrooms and put into the pan with the remaining knob of butter and another lug of oil and Worcestershire sauce. Strip in the rest of the rosemary leaves and cook on a simmer until soft and starting to caramelise, stirring regularly. (~30 minutes) Allow to cool to room temperature (~30 minutes), cover and refrigerate for the next day.

Day 2 elapsed time: ~3 hours

For serving at time T:

T - 2H:45m:
Take out the meat to warm up to room temperature.
Take out thawed puff pastry to warm to cool.

T - 2H:15m:
Turn on the oven to heat to 450°F

T - 1H:45m:
Begin beef wrapping (see below).
Put bread in oven.

T - 1H:35m:
Remove parchment paper, rotate the bread

T - 1H:30m:
Remove bread from oven
Reduce temp to 425°F

T - 1H:20m:
Bring wild rice to boil (5M).

T - 1H:15m:
Put beef in oven.
Reduce wild rice to simmer (1H).

T - 0H:30m:
Bring bean and potato water to a boil.

T - 0H:25m:
Reduce beans and potato to a simmer.

T - 0H:15m:
Remove beef from oven to rest.
Remove wild rice from stove.
Put plates to warm.

T - 0H:10m:
Remove potato and beans from stove.
Begin serving

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