"What do you want for your birthday dinner?" I asked. In innocence.
"Beef Wellington," replied Matthew.
"Are you sure? I've never made Beef Wellington?"
"Yes you have."
"No. That was Grandma."
And so it came to pass that the night before Matthew's birthday we gathered for Beef Wellington.
The caviar for the fngerling potatoes went missing. The living areas were packed with boxes and bags. Kirsten was moving out on Matthew's birthday. Snow, sleet and freezing rain was the forecast. But inside all was warmth and good wishes for new lives emerging - encouraged by the aromas of mushrooms and beef - happy together.
What surprised me is - the dish is easy. Oh yes - many steps. Many. But if you follow the instructions - you have a show-stopper of a meal. Six people gathered for a 3-1/2 pound roast. Two small pieces are left over. Because some of us showed restraint.
I used Tyler Florence's recipe - with a few little changes that I will note for you. I also followed advice from the reviews. And I also know what I would do differently the next time. (And the next time and the next....)
I've always had the roast coated with pate. This uses mushrooms. So if you want to save a few calories... who am I kidding? If you want to save a few calories you're eating fish.
I vowed to only do Italian recipes on my blog for 2013. There's something about the title of my blog ... So I state now that this is Italian Beef Wellington because it uses prosciutto. And if you use porcini mushrooms - really - it's authentic Italian. American.
Ingredients - 6-8 servings
2 pints favorite mushrooms (I used portabellas; Florence calls for 3 pints white button ones - it's too much)
2 shallots - peeled and chopped (don't go crazy - it's going in the food processor)
4 cloves garlic - peeled and chopped (ditto)
2 sprigs thyme - leaves only (I used 4 times that amount)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I omitted)
2 tablespoons olive oil (I may have used 3)
Kosher salt (I used sea salt)
Freshly ground pepper
1 3-pound beef tenderloin (mine was a little larger)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper (again, I did the sea-salt thing)
12 slices prosciutto (I used 10)
6 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Flour - for rolling out puff pastry
Puff Pastry (enough sheets to cover roast top to bottom)
2 large eggs lightly beaten (you probably just need one egg and a little water)
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Add mushrooms, shallots, garlic and thyme to food processor and pulse until finely chopped. (Either add in batches or stop and stir - so you don't puree the bottom mushrooms while leaving the top ones whole.)
Add butter (if using) and olive oil to large saute pan and set over medium heat. Add mushroom mixture and saute 8-10 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool. (I would now put in towels or in a colander lined with cheesecloth or paper towels to squeeze out more moisture. Too much moisture and your puff pastry will be soaked.)
Lay an 18-inch sheet of plastic wrap on your table. (Large enough to hold the roast and then some. Put your prosciutto slices on it - shingle style - so it can cover the roast. Using a spatula, cover the prosciutto with a thin layer of the duxelles. Season once more with a little salt and pepper (I'd go sparingly with the salt at this point). Season duxelles with the thyme leaves.
Tie tenderloin in 4 pieces so it holds its shape when searing. Lightly drizzle a large fry pan and heat over medium-heat. Drizzle beef with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and sear all over (sides, ends - everywhere) about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, cut of twine and smear lightly with the mustard. Put roast on top of duxelles (having the seam looking up at you so the top of the roast is covered with the prosciutto and mustard mixture.) Roll tightly in the plastic wrap (I used some extra wrap to get it nice and tight.) Set in fridge for 30 minutes to ensure it maintains its shape. (I put it in for 90 minutes and you would do very well to let it stay in the fridge overnight. It also lets you do the meal in pieces and not do all the prep in one day.)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
On a lightly floured surface, roll 2 sheets of puff pastry out to 1/4 inch thickness. (If you have extra-large sheets - you may not need 2.) Remove beef from fridge, Cut away the plastic and set beef in the center of the pastry (again with the top of the roast going into the pastry and the bottom looking up at you. Fold over the pastry and when the seams meet, pinch them together and brush with the eggs to seal. Trim if necessary. Place beef - seam side down on large baking sheet. (Do put it on a small rack so the moisture can drip away.)
Brush the top with the egg wash and make slits on the top of the pastry to allow steam escape. Top with a little sea salt. Bake 40-45 minutes until pastry is golden brown and thermometer reads 125 degrees F. (Mine took exactly 40 minutes - and I went to 130 degrees F - which allowed rare pieces in the center and more medium at the smaller ends for my medium-beef eaters.) Remove from oven and let rest about 20 minutes.
This is excellent with roasted fingerlings, creme fraiche and the missing caviar.
"You're changing my room!" exclaimed Kirsten. "You left Matthew's as is! It was a shrine!" (I beg to differ - but I'm the Mom. Perception is everything.)
It probably wasn't a good idea to tell her my plans before she moved out...
Today the home is quiet. Birthday boy is helping his sister move. The sleet is merely rain. The hall is empty - the 20 pairs of shoes that resided there the last two years have gone to a new home. In a few weeks, Matthew leaves his Minneapolis apartment and moves near the University - in a place he does not need to share and can make his own. I remember all those milestones from once-upon-my-time. And the excitement.
There's a lot of promise in growth. A lot of newness. And they're all signs of spring.