A beef wellington dishA beef wellington dish

If you are looking for a truly classic and impressive dish to serve for a special occasion, look no further than beef Wellington. This iconic dish dates back to the 19th century, but rose to prominence in the 1920s thanks to its appearances in high society cookbooks and cookery shows. It features tender beef tenderloin wrapped in puff pastry, with a flavorful filling of mushrooms, onions, and rich pâté. Follow our step-by-step guide to recreate this timeless recipe at home.

A brief history of beef Wellington

Beef Wellington is said to have been named after the Duke of Wellington, who famously defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. It was originally made with beef tenderloin coated in pâté and wrapped in puff pastry, as a way to preserve the meat during long journeys. By the 1920s, beef Wellington had become a staple of upscale dining, appearing on menus at high-end restaurants and in cookbooks. Today, it remains a popular dish for special occasions, though variations and updates have been made to the classic recipe over the years.

One of the most notable updates to the classic beef Wellington recipe is the use of different types of meat. While beef tenderloin is still the most common choice, some chefs have experimented with using other cuts of beef, such as sirloin or ribeye. Others have even used game meats like venison or elk to give the dish a unique twist.

Another trend in modern beef Wellington recipes is the incorporation of different flavors and ingredients. Some chefs add mushrooms or truffles to the pâté layer, while others use herbs like thyme or rosemary to enhance the flavor of the meat. Some recipes even call for a layer of foie gras or a drizzle of balsamic reduction to add richness and depth to the dish.

Ingredients for the perfect beef Wellington from the 1920s

For a traditional beef Wellington recipe from the 1920s, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. beef tenderloin, trimmed
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 4 oz. pâté
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp. heavy cream

To prepare the beef Wellington, preheat the oven to 425°F. Season the beef tenderloin with salt and black pepper. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and thyme and cook until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

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Spread the pâté over the beef tenderloin. Spoon the mushroom mixture over the pâté. Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Place the beef tenderloin in the center of the pastry. Fold the pastry over the beef, pressing the edges to seal. Place the beef Wellington on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and heavy cream. Brush the egg wash over the pastry. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the beef is cooked to your desired doneness.

Tips for selecting the best cuts of beef for your Wellington

When it comes to selecting the right cut of beef for your Wellington, it’s best to go with a whole beef tenderloin. This cut is lean, tender, and has a mild flavor that pairs well with the flavorful filling of mushrooms and pâté. Look for a tenderloin that is evenly sized and shaped, with no excess fat or connective tissue. It’s also important to properly trim the tenderloin before cooking, to ensure even cooking and a more attractive presentation.

Another great option for beef Wellington is a ribeye steak. This cut is known for its marbling, which adds flavor and tenderness to the meat. When selecting a ribeye for your Wellington, look for one that is well-marbled and has a thick, even shape. Keep in mind that this cut may require a longer cooking time than a tenderloin, so be sure to adjust your cooking time accordingly.

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider using a sirloin steak for your Wellington. While not as tender as a tenderloin or ribeye, sirloin can still be delicious when cooked properly. Look for a sirloin steak that is well-trimmed and has a uniform thickness. To help tenderize the meat, consider marinating it for a few hours before cooking.

The secret to a perfect puff pastry crust

A good puff pastry crust is essential for a successful beef Wellington. The key to achieving a flaky, golden brown crust is to work with cold pastry dough, and to handle it as little as possible. Thaw the puff pastry according to the package instructions, and roll it out into a large rectangle. Be sure to flour the work surface as needed to prevent sticking. Once wrapped around the beef tenderloin, brush the pastry with a mixture of egg yolk and heavy cream to give it a shiny, rich color as it bakes.

Another important tip for achieving a perfect puff pastry crust is to let the pastry rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before baking. This allows the layers of butter and dough to chill and firm up, which will result in a more distinct and flaky texture. Additionally, be sure to score the top of the pastry with a sharp knife before baking to allow steam to escape and prevent the crust from becoming soggy. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to create a delicious and impressive beef Wellington with a perfectly golden and flaky puff pastry crust.

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How to properly sear and season your beef

Before wrapping the tenderloin in pastry, it must be seared to create a flavorful crust. Heat butter in a large skillet over high heat, and season the beef generously with salt and black pepper. Add the beef to the skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over. This should take about 5 minutes to achieve a nice color. Transfer the tenderloin to a platter and allow it to cool completely before wrapping in the pastry.

It’s important to note that the searing process not only adds flavor, but it also helps to lock in the juices of the beef. This means that when you cut into the cooked beef, it will be tender and juicy. Additionally, you can add some herbs and garlic to the butter in the skillet to infuse even more flavor into the beef.

When it comes to seasoning the beef, don’t be afraid to experiment with different spices and herbs. Some popular options include rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, and paprika. You can also try using a dry rub or marinade to add even more flavor to the beef before searing it.

Assembling and wrapping your beef Wellington

Once the beef has cooled, it’s time to assemble the Wellington. Spread a layer of pâté over the top of the beef, and then spoon the mushroom mixture over the pâté. Wrap the puff pastry tightly around the beef, using a little water to help seal the seams along the pastry. Trim any excess pastry and refrigerate the Wellington for at least 30 minutes to set and allow the pastry to chill.

Before baking the Wellington, it’s important to brush the pastry with an egg wash to give it a golden, shiny finish. You can also use a sharp knife to score the pastry lightly, creating a decorative pattern on top. This not only looks impressive, but it also allows steam to escape during baking, preventing the pastry from becoming soggy.

Once the Wellington is baked, it’s important to let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing into it. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the beef, making it more tender and flavorful. Serve the Wellington with a side of roasted vegetables or a simple salad for a delicious and impressive meal.

Baking and serving your masterpiece

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the Wellington on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush it with the egg yolk mixture once more. Bake the Wellington for 35-40 minutes, or until the pastry is deep golden and flaky and the beef reaches an internal temperature of 135°F for medium-rare doneness.

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Once the Wellington is finished baking, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving. This allows the juices to redistribute and ensures a more tender and flavorful dish. Serve with a side of roasted vegetables or a fresh salad for a complete meal.

Variations on the classic beef Wellington recipe

While the classic beef Wellington recipe calls for a filling of mushroom and pâté, there are many variations to try. Consider swapping out the mushrooms for spinach, or using a different type of pâté like liver or foie gras. For a more modern twist on the dish, some chefs have experimented with adding truffles, cheese, and other unexpected ingredients to the filling.

Pairing sides and wine with your beef Wellington

Beef Wellington is a rich, decadent dish, and therefore tends to pair best with full-bodied wines. A classic Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux would be an excellent choice. As for sides, consider serving roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts or carrots, along with a classic potato dish like mashed potatoes or scalloped potatoes.

Frequently asked questions about making beef Wellington

  • Q: Can I make beef Wellington ahead of time?
  • A: Yes, you can assemble the Wellington up to a day ahead of time and keep it refrigerated until ready to bake.
  • Q: What can I do if my puff pastry doesn’t puff up?
  • A: Ensure that your pastry dough is cold before baking, and avoid overworking the dough as you roll it out and wrap it around the beef.
  • Q: How do I know when my beef Wellington is done?
  • A: Use a meat thermometer to check for an internal temperature of 135°F for medium-rare.

Troubleshooting common issues when making beef Wellington

If your beef Wellington doesn’t turn out quite as expected, don’t worry – there are some common issues that can arise and easy solutions for each. If the pastry doesn’t brown evenly, try applying the egg wash more evenly before baking, or moving the Wellington to a hotter part of the oven. If the filling is too wet and causes the pastry to become soggy, try cooking the mushrooms and onions longer to release more moisture before adding them to the beef. And if you find that the pastry is falling apart when you try to slice the Wellington, allow it to rest for a few minutes before slicing, or try using a serrated knife to make cleaner cuts through the layers.

How to make a vegetarian version of beef Wellington from the 1920s

If you’re looking for a vegetarian version of beef Wellington, simply swap out the beef for a hearty vegetable like portobello mushrooms or roasted root vegetables. You can still use the same filling of mushroom, onion, and pâté, and wrap it all in the same buttery puff pastry crust. The key is to select vegetables that have a firm texture and can hold up to the baking process without becoming too soggy.

Creative ways to use leftover beef Wellington

If you have any leftover beef Wellington, don’t let it go to waste. Reheat it in the oven at 350°F until warmed through, and serve it as a luxurious lunch or dinner the next day. You could also try using the leftover filling and pastry to make mini Wellington bites, or chopping up the cooked Wellington to use as a topping for a salad or pasta dish.

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