Dishes to Impress Your Friends: Beef Wellington
Once it’s safe and advisable to gather due to the COVID pandemic, you may want to entertain some friends or family with a long overdue get-together. You’ve got almost everything for the perfect party, from the drinks (or mocktails) to the music to the guest list. All that’s left is to pick a showstopping meal that will WOW your guests and make waiting through the pandemic, until it was safe, worth it. You could order out, and keep it simple, or you could check out our Dishes to Impress Your Friends series (see our Further Reading section below). We’ve got a new entry into the series that’s easy to share, delicious, and allows you to really show off one of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey’s signature dishes — Beef Wellington.
What is Beef Wellington?
Beef Wellington is effectively a seared tender cut of beef steak that’s been wrapped in a flakey dough and baked. There will usually also be other layers between the beef and the crust. Traditionally, this was a pâté or even a foie gras layer, though most modern versions of this recipe go for a mushroom duxelles. This is a mushroom, shallot, butter, and herb mixture that’s been sautéed and then reduced until it’s essentially a paste. Sometimes, these layers are accentuated by a prosciutto di Parma (also called Parma ham) that both seals in the moisture of the meat and keeps your crust from getting soggy.
While Beef Willington is of English origin, it likely was influenced by a French dish called filet de bœuf en croute (beef filet in crust).
The history of Beef Wellington is uncertain, which is surprising for how recent the dish is. In fact, the first written reference of Beef Wellington appears to be in a guide to New York restaurants from 1939, though similar dishes like Filet de Bœuf a la Wellington appear as early as 1899. There are many explanations for the name Beef Wellington, though most are connected to the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley (the hero of the Battle of Waterloo). Of all the reputed reasons for the name, the one that sticks out as the most likely to us is the patriotic renaming theory. While Beef Willington is of English origin, it likely was influenced by a French dish called filet de bœuf en croute (beef filet in crust). During the wars with France, the English took a famous French dish and renamed it after one of the great modern English heroes. If you think that’s ridiculous, anyone remember Freedom Fries?
Why is It Impressive?
While most of us can get the ingredients at our local grocery store, there’s still a bit of skill and know-how involved in making Beef Wellington.
Okay, but what makes this dish so impressive? Why does it have that WOW factor? If we wanted to think about it simply, what’s the difference between Beef Wellington and pigs in a blanket? It really comes down to the components. Nearly every ingredient in the traditional recipe was, at one point, either extremely difficult to make, rare, or expensive, making the dish something of a culinary or financial flex. While most of us can get the ingredients at our local grocery store (unless you’re going for the foie gras version, then you’ll need somewhere special), there’s still a bit of skill and know-how involved in making Beef Wellington. You’ll see what we mean when we get to the recipe. That’s why it’s important to not get too down on yourself if it doesn’t turn out perfect your first time. Even chefs on “Hell’s Kitchen” mess it up on occasion.
What Sides Can I Have with It?
Of course, any meal should have some sort of accompaniment that enhances or balances out the main course. So, what would be a good side for our crowd-pleasing Beef Wellies? Mashed potatoes are a classic side dish, as they often are with steaks, but it’s been a long pandemic. How can we take that up a step? One way is to add a slice of Mediterranean herb roasted tomato underneath the mashed potatoes, giving it a hint of herb and acid to balance the starch and fat of the potatoes. For this recipe, we’ll also make oven roasted carrots, which give the dish a beautiful sweet and rustic feel. Our mouths are watering already! Finally, because this recipe is going all out, we’ll create a luxurious red wine sauce to finish the dish.
We’ve purposefully broken down the steps into basics so they’re easier to follow.
Before we get into the recipe, we just want to say, we know it looks like a lot. There’s a lot of steps because you’re making an amazing, unforgettable meal with a lot of pieces and ingredients. Don’t let that frighten you. We’ve purposefully broken down the steps into basics so they’re easier to follow. There’s also plenty of downtime and waiting periods, so there’s no need to rush anything. Take your time with this recipe, and everything will turn out great!
Beef Wellington Recipe
For the Steak
For the Mushroom Duxelles
For the Red Wine Sauce
For the Roasted Carrots
For the Roasted Mediterranean Tomatoes
You can replace the basil and oregano with a total of about 3 tsp of dried Italian seasoning
For the Mashed Potatoes
Beef Wellington and Mushroom Duxelles Directions
- Place the pack of puff pastry in the fridge the night before to thaw.
- Also the night before, generously season the steaks with salt and pepper and set in the fridge.
- The next day, remove the steaks from the fridge, patting them dry and allowing them to get to room temperature.
- In the meantime, place the mushrooms into a food processor and chopped until they’re finely minced.
- In a medium pan, heat a tablespoon of oil and sauté 2 diced shallots until they soften before adding the mushrooms, garlic, butter, and fresh thyme leaves.
- Sauté until most of the moisture has evaporated, taking on the consistency of a paste, about 15 to 20 minutes. Alternatively, you could strain the mushrooms in an old kitchen towel (they’ll stain) to remove some of the moisture before cooking, cutting down on cooking time for the duxelles.
- Set the duxelles aside, allowing it to cool.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan over high until the oil begins to shimmer.
- Sear the steaks until each side is browned and develops a nice crust, about 2-minutes a side.
- Remove the pan from the heat and place the steaks on a cutting board.
- Spread the mustard onto each side of the steaks and allow them cool.
- Lay out a 2 long sheets of plastic wrap, roughly a foot in length.
- On each sheet, lay 4 slices of prosciutto di Parma, slightly overlapping to create a square with an additional slice covering the center.
- Spread the duxelles evenly over both sheets of prosciutto before laying the steaks on the duxelles-spread prosciutto.
- Using the plastic wrap, roll up the steaks tightly into a log and set in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
- Once 30 minutes is up, the Beef Wellingtons should be ready to come out of the fridge.
- Lay out 2 roughly-foot-long sheets of plastic wrap and lay a sheet of puff pastry on each.
- In a small bowl whisk the egg yolks, 1 tablespoon of water, and ½ teaspoon of salt together and brush the pastry sheets with the egg wash, reserving some for later.
- Remove the Wellies from the plastic wrap and place each in the center of a pastry sheet.
- Again, roll each Beef Wellington tightly, trimming excess dough and brushing with some of the remaining egg wash.
- Return the Wellingtons to the fridge for another 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- When 30 minutes is up, remove the Beef Wellingtons from the fridge.
- Lightly score (slice) the Wellington pastry and brush with the remaining egg wash.
- Place the Beef Wellington on a greased or tinfoil-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Set the Beef Wellingtons on a cutting board and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Red Wine Sauce Directions
While the Beef Wellington is in the fridge, reheat the pan that the steak was in (it should still be a little warm) and add a tablespoon of butter and begin deglazing the pan, scraping up the brown bits left from the steak.
- Allow this to reduce adding the thyme sprig, garlic, and shallot, sautéing until the diced shallot is softened and lightly browned.
- Add the balsamic vinegar and allow it to reduce.
- Add the red wine and turn up the heat to bring the wine to a gentle boil before lowering the heat to bring it to a gentle simmer.
- Allow the wine mixture to reduce by about three-quarters before adding the stock.
- Return to a boil before again lowering and bringing the sauce to a simmer.
- Move to the back of the stock over low heat and allow it to simmer and reduce to your desired consistency, likely about an hour, removing from heat once it’s at your desire consistency.
Roasted Carrots and Mediterranean Tomatoes Directions
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Toss your washed and trimmed carrots in 2 tablespoon of olive oil and place on half of a foil-lined baking sheet.
- Cut the 2 beefsteak tomatoes into roughly ½ inch thick slices and place them on the other half of the baking sheet.
- Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil before sprinkling liberally with salt and the fresh chopped basil and oregano, or dried Italian seasoning.
- Place the baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove the carrot and tomato baking sheet from the oven, lightly turn the carrots and flip the tomatoes, and return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes.
- When 15 to 20 minutes is up, remove the carrots and the tomatoes from the oven (roughly the same time as the Beef Wellingtons).
- If the carrots or the tomatoes could use more time, put them back in for another 4 to 5 minutes, checking them regularly.
Mashed Potatoes Directions
- In a large steam pot, bring 8 cups of salted water to a boil and lower the heat so it doesn’t boil over.
- Cut the peeled Russet potatoes into even-sized cubes and drop them into a steamer basket before covering the pot.
- Steam the potatoes for 15-20 minutes.
- While the potatoes are steaming, add the milk, butter, cream, and garlic into a small sauce pot over low heat.
- Heat until the butter has melted and the milk is hot, but not boiling — you just want it hot.
- Drain the potatoes and mash them with a potato masher, a wooden spoon, or (best of all) a potato ricer.
- Pour a little warmed milk, butter, and cream into a fine mesh strainer held over the potatoes and begin mixing. Be sure to strain the garlic out of the mixture.
- Continue to strain the mixture into the potatoes until it has reached your desired consistency, adding salt and pepper to taste, and covering the bowl with tinfoil to keep it warm.
Plating and Serving Directions
- Reheat the red wine sauce if it has cooled and strain into a serving dish for your guests.
- Begin plating the ingredients, placing a tomato on the plate and just covering it with a helping of mashed potatoes, laying 2 or 3 carrots across the mashed potatoes.
- Cut the Beef Wellingtons into roughly 1-inch slices and place 1 or 2 slices on each plate.
- Drizzle a little of the red wine sauce overtop the Beef Wellingtons and serve immediately.
- Get someone else to do the dishes later — You did enough work.
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