How To Make Beef Wellington

This is the dish James Bond* would serve if he were hosting a dinner party. It’s manly and rich, and takes a little skill to pull off really well. It was also incredibly popular in the 60s.

I’ll probably get plenty of angry comments telling me this version is a travesty, that it’s using the wrong cut of beef, that it can’t be done properly as quickly as I did. Right on all counts … except that it tasted damn good. And I still say that beats tradition every time.

* Sean Connery. No question.

Ingredients


2 beef tenderloin fillets, 4 ounces each (see note below)
½ pound portabella mushrooms
½ medium red onion
1 cup sweet white wine
1 cup flour
6 tablespoons butter, well chilled (nearly frozen)
¼ cup ice water (approximately)
one egg (not pictured, see below)
salt and pepper

Directions

The beef

I didn’t plan ahead like I should have. I decided Friday night that I wanted to make this. When I went to the butcher on Saturday, they didn’t have any tenderloin. Oops.

So I got the next best thing, some New Your strips, 12 ounces each. I cut the four pieces that I was going to need for dinner and froze the last piece for later. Normally I’d leave the fat, but I thought there was a little too much to cook into a pastry so I trimmed it.

Season them on one side with salt and pepper.

Melt a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat in an uncoated pan over extremely high heat. I had the pieces of fat I trimmed from the steak, so I added that, too.

As soon as the fat is melted, place the beef seasoned side down in the pan. Be careful of splattering grease. Season the other side.

Turn the beef over as soon as it is browned. To check, shake the pan. When it is browned, the beef will break loose from the surface and slide around freely. It should take a minute or less on high.

Once the top and bottom are done, brown the sides. You might have to get in there with tongs and hold the beef upright.

When the beef is browned all the way around, remove it to a plate or cutting board … something big enough to hold all the beef in one layer. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap.

Put the wrapped beef in the freezer while you prep the other ingredients. You’ll want the beef to be barely rare when the pastry is finished, so it should be nearly frozen when it goes into the oven.

The filling

Clean and slice the mushrooms, then dice them fine.

Add the wine to the same pan you cooked the beef in. Deglaze the pan over medium heat, scraping up all the brown bits, that’s pure flavor.

Add the chopped mushrooms. Stir occasionally until the liquid is reduced.

The mushrooms will give up their moisture as they cook, so the liquid will actually increase before it starts to reduce.

Shred the onion, then dice the shreds.

Once the liquid in the mushrooms is completely cooked down, add the onions. Keep stirring until the onions are soft and browned, then remove from heat.

The pastry

Put the flour and salt in a bowl.

Dice the butter into small pieces. Add it to the flour and cut in with a pastry cutter or two knives until the pieces are smaller than pea-sized.

Add ice water a tablespoon at a time and stir with a fork. You want just enough water for the flour to hold together as a coarse meal.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll it out into a square an eighth-inch (a half centimeter) thick.

Once it’s rolled out, make sure it is not stuck to the counter. If it is, scrape it up, flour the surface and roll it out again. Then cut it in half with a pizza slicer or a sharp knife.

The assembly (finally)

Pre-heat the oven to 400°. Remove the fillets from the freezer. Add a layer of the mushroom mixture as big as the fillets to each piece of dough, then place the fillets on top of the filling.

Wrap the dough around the beef and pinch the edges together.

It would be better to seal the edges with an egg wash — one egg yolk beaten with one tablespoon of water. Somehow I was out of eggs. I always have eggs, so I didn’t think to check. Brush the top with the remaining egg wash.

Put the finished, sealed packages on an un-greased baking sheet. There is more than enough butter in the crust to keep it from sticking.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.

Presentation

Let the beef rest for five minutes, then slice in half. Plate each one with one half leaning on top of the other.

Add the remaining mushroom mixture.

Serve with a light side, like grilled asparagus or glazed carrots. I did raw vegetables: red pepper with ranch dip, and tomato with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

And that’s it.


This is one of the longest recipes I’ve done, but none of the steps are really that hard. I would recommend practicing the pastry by making a pie crust or two so you get used to handling it.

And don’t try to rush this one. Give yourself plenty of lead time. You can leave the beef in the freezer for an hour or so before baking, so take your time getting the dough right. Good luck with it.

PS: There was a problem when Blogger posted this the first time. I accidentally lost a couple of comments when I fixed it. From Kristin:

Oh, but I MUST question, Drew, because I’ve always been partial to Roger Moore.

But all Bond preferences aside, this IS an impressive recipe, isn’t it? I would never make it, but I wouldn’t mind if someone else made it for me.

And from Merryann:

Hmmmm….never thought about making individual Wellingtons! Good idea!

One note to make it even easier (from a professional chef friend of mine) – skip making the pastry and use puff pastry sheets.

I saw several recipes calling for puff pastry, including one that described how to make it. Several hours for the pastry before I even start on the beef? Not today, thanks. But more than half showed this type of simple butter crust. Since I’ve done several pie crusts, I figured I’d just go do-it-yourself for the whole thing.

Individual Beef Wellingtons

Individual Beef Wellingtons

Ingredients

  • 2 4-ounce fillets or thick steaks
  • ½ pound portabella mushrooms, diced fine
  • ½ medium red onion, diced fine
  • 1 cup sweet white wine
  • 1 cup flour
  • 6 tablespoons butter, well chilled (nearly frozen)
  • ¼ cup ice water (approximately)
  • one egg
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

Season the beef with salt and pepper and sear all around over high heat. Transfer to a dish, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and move to the freezer for up to a half-hour.

Deglaze the pan with the wine, and add the mushrooms. Cook over medium-low heat until they give up their liquid, then reduce the liquid. When the pan is nearly dry add the onion. Stir occasionally until the onions are soft and browned, then remove pan from heat.

Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter, or two knives, until it resembles coarse meal. Mix in the ice water a tablespoon at a time until the dough just starts to hold together. Roll out into a square, then cut in half. Prepare an egg wash by beating the egg with a half cup of water

In the center of each piece of dough, add a layer of the mushroom mixture as big as the beef. Place the beef on top, wrap the dough up from the bottom and seal with the egg wash. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet and brush the top with the remaining egg wash.

Bake for 20 minutes at 400°, until the dough is golden brown and crispy.