Happy New Year everyone!
I don’t know about you, but I’m a little glad the holidays have passed. Don’t get me wrong. They were wonderful. Full of love, laughter, good times, and of course good food. One of the things I love most about the holidays is the food and drink. There are special recipes that I save only for this time of the year: homemade eggnog, butter tarts, ginger molasses cookies, mulled wine. Sure, I could whip up butter tarts any day of the year, but saving them for this special occasion makes them sparkle.
The big finale, though, is Christmas dinner. The tradition in my family is turkey, but a few years ago I spent Christmas at Nathan’s parents’ house on Vancouver Island, and I wanted to make something special for his family as a thank you for welcoming me into their home. So I decided to try a new recipe: Beef Wellington.
Ever since that year Beef Wellington has been the go-to Christmas dinner for Nathan and I. The original recipe came from Gordon Ramsay, but I read it incorrectly, which caused some interesting adaptations on my part. Instead of chestnut mushrooms, I used chestnuts and mushrooms to make my duxelle (mushroom paste). And last year we made another change that is here to stay. We went in on a quarter cow here in Pemberton, and with it came four beautiful beef tenderloin medallions. So instead of preparing a whole tenderloin, we did individual Beef Wellingtons, which I’m happy to share with you here today. The puff pastry to meat ratio is higher, they’re super easy to prepare ahead of time, and they look like perfectly wrapped little presents when they’re completed. Ideal for Christmas dinner. After trying this, you may never go back to turkey again. (Sorry.)(Not sorry.)
Individual Beef Wellingtons
Beef tenderloin medallions, ~ 1.5″ – 2″ thick
Mushrooms (I used brown mushrooms this year, but any kind is fine.)
Prosciutto (2 slices per medallion)
Prepared frozen puff pastry, thawed.
1.Roast the chestnuts. Peel while still warm, and set aside to cool.
For two years I roasted my chestnuts in a cast iron pan over our woodstove, mostly for the novelty of singing “Chestnuts roasting on a woodstove.” This year I roasted them in the oven and it’s way easier, and faster. Make sure to score your chestnuts with an X, and I soaked mine for about an hour first. The idea is that the water will create steam and help loosen the skin under the shell. If you find they’re not peeling very easily, they probably need more time in the oven.
2. Dice your mushrooms, and saute with a little butter and a sprinkle of salt. Cook until most of the moisture is gone, and they are soft and browned. Set aside to cool.
The size of your dice doesn’t matter because we’re going to put them in a food processor later. The salt helps draw out the moisture. We’re looking to remove most of the moisture from the mushrooms so they don’t make the puff pastry too soggy.
3. Mix the chestnuts and the mushrooms in a food processor until they form a smooth paste. Set aside.
You may notice that I haven’t given any specific quantities up until this point, and that’s because this step is personal preference. Your mushroom to chestnut ratio is entirely up to you, as well as how much of this paste you would like. I was making Wellingtons for nine people, so I used an entire bag of chestnuts, and about fifteen to twenty mushrooms. It made enough for about two tablespoons per Wellington. You can also skip this part entirely if you don’t like mushrooms, or chestnuts.
4. Pat your beef medallions dry and season with salt and pepper. Sear in a hot pan with a little olive oil, only a minute per side. Set aside on a plate. Brush the tops with grainy mustard while still warm.
I like to use a little steak spice on mine as well. You barely need a minute in a nice, hot pan. We’re not looking to cook the steaks; we’re just looking for a little char on the outside to add flavour.
5. Assembly time. Place a small piece of plastic wrap on your workstation. Lay down two pieces of prosciutto in an X pattern. Spread a spoonful of your mushroom/chestnut mixture in the centre. Place the beef medallion mustard side down on top of the mixture. Gently fold up the edges of the prosciutto, and tightly wrap with the plastic. Let sit in the fridge at least 30 minutes, or until you’re ready to wrap with puff pastry.
You can prepare these ahead of time up until this point and keep in the fridge, or you can go straight to wrapping in puff pastry. The time spent in the fridge helps firm up the Wellington and makes it easier to wrap with the puff. I usually let these sit in the fridge while I prepare my puff pastry. If you’ve let them sit in the fridge for longer, let them sit out at room temperature for a little while to ensure even cooking.
6. Roll out the puff pastry to approx. 1/4″ thickness. Cut into squares large enough to wrap around your Wellingtons. Unwrap the medallions from the plastic wrap, being careful not to dislodge the prosciutto, and place upside down on your puff pastry square. Wrap the four corners of the puff pastry around the meat, and use a little egg wash to help seal.
I’m sorry I don’t have a picture for this step. The size of your puff square should be just enough to fold over the beef, like you did with the prosciutto. You can make egg wash by beating one egg with a bit of water, approx. 1-2 tsp. Try not to roll your puff pastry too thick, otherwise you’ll be eating more puff than meat. Thinner is better.
7. Place Wellingtons on a baking sheet covered with parchment. Cut slits into the top of the pastry, and brush all over with egg wash. Bake at 400ºF for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.
Cooking time will depend on the thickness of your meat, and your oven. Use a meat thermometer to ensure you don’t overcook your meat. I overcooked the meat a little this year in favour of a more golden pastry, but nobody seemed to mind because they were so delicious. I cut some triangles from the puff to frame the slits, using a little egg wash to glue them down.
And there you have it. Individual Beef Wellingtons. They go great with a fresh, green salad to counterbalance the heavy meat and puff pastry. It takes a bit of planning and prep, but you may find these sneaking into your own traditional holiday recipes before long.