I still remember the first time I had Beef Wellington. I was just out of high school and dating an older man. He took me to this nice fancy restaurant where he ordered Beef Wellington, a bottle of expensive red wine and cherries jubilee for dessert. Yeah, definitely impressive. Though the relationship didn't last long, the memories of that meal have always lingered. So when my little London Olympics Food venture came about, I figured to impress Mr. L by making my first ever Beef Wellington. I found several interesting recipes in my British cookbooks, most very traditional, but it was this recipe I came across in America's Test Kitchens Cooking For Two 2009 annual that really intrigued me. Sort of a deconstructed Beef Wellington.
This was awesome. It had great flavor and made a wonderful presentation. I felt bad that I didn't put linens on the table and light some candles LOL. This was surprisingly easy to make, basically it's just a filet mignon, with some puff pastry, pate and a sauce. The sauce has a sweetness to it from the Madeira (which you can find in the wine section near the sherry and vermouth). I loved the play of the crunch of the puff pastry and the meltingly tender cut of beef. Don't be put off by the long list of instructions, it's more of America's Test Kitchen telling you what to do in detail.
You only use half of a standard 9-inch square sheet of puff pastry. I actually used the other half of the sheet for dessert...cooked them and then added some butter, cinnamon and brown sugar.
I'd make this again in a heartbeat. I can so see serving this anytime I want a fancy celebratory meal. I also think I could easily double the recipe and serve to company for an impressive dinner. Not the cheapest meal I've ever made and not necessarily very British, but I think the end results were worth every penny. And I think this recipe is worth the cost of the Cooking For Two 2009 Annual alone! (as with all their recipes, the introduction to the dish, the tips and tricks, the concise and clear recipe directions, all help make the dish).
INDIVIDUAL BEEF WELLINGTONS WITH MADEIRA SAUCE
(Cooking for Two 2009 Annual)
Pastry and Beef
1/2 (9-inch square) sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed, cut in half width-wise to make two 4 1/2-inch squares (see note)
2 (7 to 8-ounce) center-cut beef tenderloin steaks, 1 1/2 inches thick
Salt and Pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons smooth chicken or duck liver pate, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced thin
1 shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1 cup Madeira
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1. For the Pastry and Beef: Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the lower rack, and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line another rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the pastry squares on the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate until needed.
2. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Carefully lay the steaks in the skillet and sear until well browned on both sides, 4 to 6 minutes, flipping the steaks halfway through cooking.
3. Transfer the steaks to the hot baking sheet on the lower oven rack, setting the skillet aside for the sauce. Place the refrigerated baking sheet of pastry on the upper oven rack. Cook the tenderloin steaks and pastry until the centers of the steaks registers 125 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (for medium-rare) and the pastry is puffed and golden, 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Transfer the steaks to a carving board, spread the pate evenly over the top of each, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Remove the pastry from the oven to let cool on the baking sheet.
5. For The Madeira Sauce: Meanwhile, add the oil to the skillet and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and shallot, and cook until the mushrooms release their liquid and begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes; transfer to a bowl.
6. Return the skillet to medium heat, stir in the Madeira, scraping up any browned bits, and simmer until it has thickened slightly and reduced to about 1/3 cup, 3 to 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the cooked mushroom mixture, parsley, thyme, mustard, butter, lemon juice, and any accumulated beef juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and cover to keep warm.
7. Following the photos (see notes below) split the pastry squares in half with a serrated knife. Place the bottom half of each pastry on an individual serving plate and lay a tenderloin steak on top. Spoon the Madeira sauce over the steaks, top with the remaining pastry, and serve immediately.
NOTES FROM RECIPE: Be sure to let the pastry thaw on the counter before cutting it in half and cutting the squares; if the dough starts to separate at the seams before you cut it, simply rejoin the seams by rolling them smooth with a rolling pin. See recipe (they give a recipe for Cheese Straws) to use up leftover pastry, or you can refreeze or refrigerate it for up to 2 days.
NOTES FROM RECIPE: They prefer these steaks cooked to medium-rare
NOTES FROM RECIPE: Serve immediately or else the pastry will turn soggy
NOTE: I used Duck Liver pate that I found at my local grocery store.
NOTE: Took much more time than the 3-5 minutes to reduce the Madeira Sauce (more like 5-10)
NOTE: I was worried about the beef and pastry cooking together, but they both were actually done about the same time (10 minutes for the beef, maybe 12 for the pastry). I did use a thermometer to test the beef for doneness (medium-rare).
NOTE: Though I realize beef shrinks, a 7-8 ounce fillet is not only too big a portion for one person, but costs quite a bit. I think you could get by with smaller cuts of steak (just watch the cooking time). You'd also probably have to cut down the size of the puff pastry. Which changes the whole recipe. Which leads me to the next note...
NOTE: Didn't pay attention and baked a full sheet of puff pastry cut into fourths so I ended up with two additional puff pastries. No problem since I only ate half my filet. I took that half, the leftover sauce and reheated it for lunch. Meat and sauce reheated wonderfully. The puff pastry, not so much, but it still tasted good. I know, completely goes against my "this is a dish for two" philosophy, but 8-ounces of meat is not one serving for women!
NOTE: Madeira Wine is a fortified wine that can be used in many different dishes. Just do a Google search and you'll find a ton of different recipes to try.
NOTE: The black and white photos in the cookbook do show you how to "cut" the pastry in half. Having never worked with cut sheets before, I didn't realize that when the squares of pastry cook, they actually make two half's, top and bottom. It's very easy to take a knife and cut the two horizontally in half. You can see it a bit more in photo below.
Again, even I was impressed with how good this turned out. Though it may seem like a lot of steps, this did come together fairly quickly. It made me excited to try out other recipes from the cookbook!