This history of this dish and the origins of its name are uncertain according to Wikipedia, but it definitely plays an important role in my personal food history as Beef Wellington was one of the first gourmet dishes I learned to prepare. It was at the christmas party at my first job back in 1997. We were a small team at the office and since many of us loved to cook, for a christmas party we cooked our own dinner under supervision of a chef. I loved it and have since prepared it many times following the same recipe, even though I later found out that Beef Wellington often also includes pâté (which is not included in this recipe). Beef Wellington is beef tenderloin, wrapped in puff pastry with a umami bomb called duxelles (mushrooms, ham, tomato paste, shallots, garlic, and parsley). I always serve it with haricots verts and a strong red wine sauce. It is a great dish for festive occasions.
Some of you were wondering what dish I made with my first home made puff pastry. I couldn’t think of a better dish to use it for than this. The combination of the beef with the duxelles, the puff pastry and the red wine sauce is just amazing. The juices that will leak from the beef during the cooking will be absorbed by the duxelles and the pastry. It almost becomes one single flavor, which together with the red wine sauce for me is the flavor of Beef Wellington. You can either make individual parcels or wrap an entire tenderloin in puff pastry and serve it sliced. I prefer a lot of duxelles and think that individual parcels look more festive, so that is what I usually do.
Beef Wellington is relatively easy to make if you use store-bought puff pastry (as I have always done before). There are two tricky parts: working with puff pastry (which will break if it is too cold or tear when it is too warm) and getting the puff pastry and the beef perfectly cooked at the same time. I noticed that after all the hard work of making my own puff pastry, working with it was much easier than working with store-bought pastry, which is not as supple and will tear more easily.
I have successfully used an instant-read thermometer with a probe to be able to cook the beef until it had reached the desired core temperature. The parcels can be prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator, so when it is time to serve you only need to put the Beef Wellington in the oven. This makes it a perfect dish for festive occasions such as christmas dinner and other times when you cook for company.
2 beef tenderloin tournedos of 140 grams (5 oz) each
2 square sheets of puff pastry of 20 cm (8 inches), about 225 grams (.5 lb) or a quarter of the recipe for home made puff pastry
100 grams (3.5 oz) button mushrooms, roughly chopped
60 grams (2 oz) ham, cubed
2 small or 1 large shallot, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp bread crumbs
1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper
25 grams (2 Tbsp) butter, preferably clarified
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp olive oil
400 grams (.9 lb) haricots verts, steamed
Brown the tournedos over high heat on both sides. You do not need to cook them, only brown them, so a minutes or so per side will suffice. Turn off the heat, take the tournedos out of the pan and set them aside on a plate.
Preheat the oven to 250ºC/480ºF (without fan, or 225ºC/440ºF with fan). In a small bowl combine an egg yolk with a tablespoon of olive oil. Beat to mix to obtain dorure. Brush the top of each parcel with the dorure, which will help to brown the puff pastry.
Bake for 15 minutes at 250ºC/480ºF (without fan, or 225ºC/440ºF with fan), or until the puff pastry is golden and the beef is cooked to your preference (if using a thermometer with a probe, 50ºC/122ºF for rare, 55ºC/131ºF for medium rare, or 60ºC/140ºF for medium; please do not cook to well done).
Beef Wellington served with a red wine sauce is best with a Pomerol or another full-bodied merlot (Pomerol is from the right bank in Bordeaux and contains mostly merlot). The dish can handle quite a strong red wine.