This is a dish I like to bust out when we have a really extravagant meal lined up. It requires a lot of prep work (like 8 hours on your “day off” to make 60 of them) but if you only have 4 to make, you’re laughing. The best part is, once the prep is done, you literally pop them in the oven, pull them out in 16 to 20 minutes, and they are done. It’s a really impressive main course if you have a special occasion coming up, so if you have some time to prepare, give this a shot. Once you take your first bite, I swear you will forget about all the time spent making them.
We like to serve ours at the restaurant with a Perigeaux Sauce, which is a combination of reduced beef stock, truffles, and foie gras, but a nice beef glace or gravy will do just fine. Some starch or vegetable puree on the base of your dish will help to soak up the wonderful juices and, with it being the middle of winter right now, we are using parsnip puree with the sweet, overwintered parsnips we find at the farmers market. Some roasted vegetables on the side and pickled cippolini onions help to balance out the rich wellington.
4 cups mixed mushrooms, finely chopped or pulsed in a robot coup *
1 small white onion, fine diced
2 cloves garlic, fine diced
1 TBSP thyme, picked and chopped
2 ounces nice quality sherry
Duxelle (from above)
16 to 24 ounces of beef tenderloin, cut into 4 to 6 ounce portions
2 sheets puff pastry
Flour, for dusting
2 egg yolks
1 T cream
For the duxelle, melt your butter in a large pan over medium heat and sweat your onions and thyme. Add your garlic and mushrooms and cook down, stirring often, until all the excess moisture has been cooked away and you are left with a rich mushroom mixture. He final product will have shrunk significantly in size, but don’t worry! That’s a good thing because you are trying to concentrate your flavours into as small an amount as you can.
Next, season your steak pieces all over with salt and pepper. Heat a pan large enough to fit all 4 pieces (without crowding!) over high heat. Once the surface is nice and hot, add a splash of vegetable oil and carefully swirl to coat the base. Just before the oil starts smoking, carefully add your steaks to the pan and allow to get a dark sear before turning and searing the opposite side. Remember to place the steaks into the pan away from yourself so if there is any splashing in the oil, it goes on your stove and not on your hands. For this sear, you aren’t trying to cook the steak through, you’re only get some nice carmalization on the exterior. Remove the steaks from the pan and place in the fridge to chill while you work on the pastry. Maybe have a sip of wine now that the dangerous part is done. Or a tea. Whatever floats your boat.
We use our sister restaurant, Duchess Bakeshop’s, puff pastry but you can always use the kind they sell at the grocery store and it will work just as well. Roll the pastry to about half a cm thick and using a bowl or mug, cut out circles for both the base and the top of your wellingtons. You will need to cut 2 different sizes for each wellington, as the top needs a little extra room to cover the steak. Keep your pastry covered with a tea towel or saran wrap while you aren’t working with it to keep it from drying out.
With your steaks fully chilled, your duxelle made, and your pastry rolled, it’s time to assemble! In a small bowl, whisk together your yolks and cream and set aside. On each of your pastry base circles, spoon some duxelle. Brush your steaks all over with the dijon and place each one in the centre of the circle. Add another spoon of the mushroom mix to the top of each steak and flatten gently. For the pastry that will top each wellington, cut a small vent hole in the centre of each one and brush all over with the yolk mixture. Score a nice pattern on if you want and then carefully lay them over the steak packages, flattening to the base as best you can. It’s delicate work, but try to keep them as in tact and finger hole free as possible. Gently press your pastry around the steaks and use a fork to crimp the edges. Trim any excess to get a nice finish. Repeat with the remaining 3 and then carefully transfer to the fridge to chill for the next day.
There! Your big day of prep is done! To cook and serve, preheat your oven to 400F and bake your wellingtons from about 18 to 24 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of your steaks to be sure they are done to your liking (for tenderloin, I prefer rare to mid-rare which is 130F to 140F), transfer to your plate and serve with the well deserved sense of pride you should be feeling.
*Note: don’t submerge your mushrooms in water to clean them. They are essentially little sponges and will soak up the excess moisture. Instead, just brush them off with a clean, damp cloth.