My adventure with Beef Wellington

Encouraged by the usually reliable Felicity Cloake’s post in The Guardian I embarked on the exciting journey with the perfect beef wellington. I invited some friends to partake in my suicidal experiment and to live to tell the story.

I bought a package of the frozen puff pastry, thawed it, and judged it to be my first element of risk. The sheets seems very small and very thin. I decided to make my own puff pastry instead.

For 4 people I prepared

  • 10g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 50g butter
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 300g mixed mushrooms (oyster, shitaake, ordinary white mushrooms) roughly chopped or torn
  • 1 sprig of thyme, leaves picked
  • 200ml madeira
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • 500g all-butter puff pastry
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 800g beef fillet
  • 1 egg, beaten, to glaze
  • i forgot to, but i  could have applied 1 tbsp poppy seeds

Prepared the duxelle

  1. Soaked the porcini in 150ml boiling water for 20 minutes, then squeezed them out and chopped, reserving the soaking water.
  2. Chopped all the mushrooms
  3. Melted the butter in a pan over a medium heat and cooked the shallots until pale golden
  4. Add the mixed mushrooms, porcini and thyme and cooked until softened.
  5. Poured in 150ml madeira, seasoned, turned up the heat and cooked until the wine has evaporated.
  6. Took the frying pan off the heat, and scooped ¾ of the mixture into a bowl.
  7. Mixed in the double cream, taste for seasoning, and set aside. This may have been the beginning of my problems...

Seared the meat

  1. Heated the oil in a pan over a high heat and, when smoking, added the fillet and seared briefly on all sides until crusted.
  1.  Seasoned well and allowed it to cool. Did not wash the pan yet – expected to need it for making the sauce.

Put it together

  1. I turned on the oven to 200C (400F)
  2. Placed a baking sheet in the oven to get it ready and hot
  3. Roll out the pastry to a rectangle about 30cm x 30cm and 3mm thick.
  4.  Brush all over with egg, and then spread with the cream duxelle mixture.
  5. Put the beef at one end and carefully roll up, positioning it seam-side down, and then trim the edges and tuck in to seal the parcel, using the tines of a fork to press the edges together. Forgot to paint with egg and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
  6. Put on to the hot baking sheet and cook. The plan was for 30 minutes until golden, but it took much longer – perhaps because the oven was also roasting herbed potatoes. We used the meat thermoneter to get 63C. When ready, it looked beautiful
  7. Then set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, made the sauce. Deglaze the beef pan with the remaining madeira and then add the rest of the mushrooms and the porcini soaking liquid and allow to reduce slightly. Tasted, seasoned, and served with the beef wellington.

Did not have the nerve to take pictures. The pastry layer was completely independent of the meat,  the ‘duxelle’ stuffing was all on the bottom… Complete failure on the presentation front.   Very upsetting,. even if the taste was quite appealing..

So – Wojtek took over with the left-over piece of raw meat, package of defrosted puff pastry, one egg, salt and pepper. He browned the meat very quickly, smeared everything with the egg wash, covered with the puff pastry – but, with a sharp knife, cut a flat opening just below the bottom of the folded package, leaving opportunity for the meat to breathe – and roasted for precise 30 minutes. The result was much more satisfying, even if there were some pieces of dough that could have been cooked longer.. Very tasty!So, consider:

  1. not too much pastry
  2. plan to roast it alone – if your oven is as fussy as mine
  3. very dry duxelle mix- if any at all
  4. egg between the meat and the pastry – very important
  5. possibly the horizontal vent or even two separate pieces bottom and the roof – to avoid the raised tent symptom.
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