What is beef Wellington? Ha! I had no idea what it was until I made filet de boeuf en croûte and my Australian rugby friend came over and said, “Oh! beef Wellington!”
Oooooh! So that’s what it is.
Beef Wellington is a beautiful cut of roast beef, enrobed in puff pastry and stuffed with mushrooms. According to British tradition, it’s made with a madeira sauce, but I made the French version instead. I did some research as to the origin of this dish, and from what I can understand from here, Arthur Wellington cannot take credit at all as the dish was not anglicised until the 20th century – and even then, the dish appeared in America.
But who knows. Maybe there was some thread of connection between the two. The Beau coming to Paris after the success at Waterloo, tasting this hearty French dish, demanding that the recipe be procured … one can imagine.
My dish is made with gluten-free puff pastry, which is now available in France. It’s a little chewier and hard to cut than the wheat version, but it serves wonderfully when necessary. If I didn’t have that, this Martha Stewart recipe looks like an easy way to make your own gluten-free puff pastry. If I had access to pre-made gluten-free pie-crust, I would even make the dish with that just to try it.
As for the rest, let’s get to business.
Take your cut of meat from the refrigerator and remove any strings tying it together. This one was a kilo, so 2.2 lbs. Heat some olive oil in a skillet until its very hot, then sear the meat on each of its four sides for about a minute on each side. Don’t overdo it because you want the inside to be pink.
Remove the meat to a rack so it can drain (if necessary) and cool completely. On each of the four sides, sprinkle with salt and thyme, and on just one side, sprinkle with pepper. That adds some flavor, but you don’t want to make it too spicy since we’ll be adding Dijon mustard.
While that’s cooling, chop a quarter of a medium-sized onion and start that cooking in the skillet that you used for the meat. Stir it from time to time as you wash and slice 300 grams of button mushrooms, which comes to loosely 4 cups.
Add 30 grams of butter (a couple of tablespoons) to the skillet and stir in the mushrooms. Cook until dry. There should be no liquid. When it’s ready, mix together in a bowl a heaping tablespoon of sour cream (crème fraîche) and an egg yolk
and stir that in to the fried mushrooms.
When the mushroom are cooked, put them in the food processor. It makes it easier to spread on the beef. Added bonus – your kids will eat ’em because they won’t really know what they are!
Let those cool and make sure no liquid forms as it cools. If it does, drain it out.
When it’s time to assemble and cook, preheat the oven to 240°C (475°F). It should be super hot so that the dish gets a head-start on cooking for the first 10 minutes. Take a baking sheet and lay a piece of parchment paper on top. Sprinkle some flour on the paper (I used gluten-free, of course), and place your rolled-out dough. You’ll want to spread about a third of the mushrooms on the dough and place your meat on top of that. Then slather it with Dijon mustard.
Cover the rest of the sides with the mushroom paste
and fold the crust over it. Use some milk to pinch the dough together.
Fold the sides up and cut whatever excess you have. Using milk, continue to pinch the sides together and fill in the holes with the extra crust.
And voila! Turn it upside down (this is where the flour comes in handy. Otherwise the crust will stick to the parchment paper). If you have any excess dough, you can cut some leaves or some other decoration and stick that on with more milk. Brush egg yolk over the entire thing.
Okay, I gotta be honest. I was so proud of myself at this point, but I was worried about whether the meat would be done to perfection.
Into the oven it goes for those first ten minutes, after which you’re going to turn the temperature down to 190°C (375°F) for the remaining 25 minutes.
Now. Here’s what I did. My oven is a gas oven and I don’t trust my beef not to overcook in those temperatures. I kept it at 190 for about 5 minutes, then got nervous and turned it down to 175°C (around 325°F) for another 10 minutes, checking it to see how it was doing. And the final 10 minutes, I put it at 150°C, or 300°F. If you’ve got an electric oven, I think you can trust the original temperatures given in the recipe I used. But if yours tends to heat hot, I would start like it says, then turn it down throughout the cooking, every 5 or 10 minutes just as I did. Hopefully you know your oven well enough to estimate.
Here it is.
I moved it to a platter and marvelled at it.
I cut it, and oh darn the gluten-free crust made it hard to have a perfect cut. Next time I do this, I’m going to use a serrated bread knife and try gently to cut the crust, then switch to a sharp meat knife and continue the cut through the meat.
But I was able to mould them together so they were beautiful on the plate.
And oh-so-tasty! As you can see, the cuisson (pronounced kwee-sso(w)n) was perfect. Still pink on the inside.
Serve the beef Wellington with stir-fried wild mushrooms (I didn’t, though – didn’t want to push my luck with the kids) – or another type of vegetable. And though you don’t really need it, you can stir-fry some potatoes with the rest of the onion and serve that too. That’s what I did for the kids, who ate every drop of every thing on their plate.
I got the French base for my recipe here.
- 1 rolled puff pastry (not sweet)
- 1 roast beef around 2 lbs
- 300 g button mushrooms - about 4 cups
- 2 egg yolks - used separately
- 1 large spoon of sour cream or crème fraîche
- 30 grams of butter, or a couple tablespoons
- ¼ onion
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- salt, pepper, thyme to taste
- olive oil for frying
- First remove any strings from the meat and fry it on a very hot skillet with some olive oil. No more than a minute on each of its four sides.
- Let it drain and cool, then sprinkle all sides with salt, pepper (just one side), & thyme.
- Chop a quarter-onion and stir-fry it in the skillet which held the meat.
- Wash and slice the mushrooms. Add the butter, then the mushrooms to the pan.
- Mix the sour cream and egg yolk and add that. There should be no liquid in the mushroom mix.
- Purée the mushrooms and let them cool.
- Take a baking sheet and lay parchment paper on top, sprinkle with flour.
- Spread ⅓ of the cooled mushrooms on top of that.
- Place the meat on top and cover it with Dijon mustard.
- Spread the rest of the mushrooms on all sides of the meat.
- Fold the dough over it on all sides and pinch the dough together with milk.
- Cut off any extra and fill in the empty spaces with dough, and turn the dish over.
- If you have enough dough for decorations, do that and attach it with milk.
- Otherwise, brush yolk over the whole thing.
- Preheat the oven to 240°C (475°F).
- Cook the Wellington at that temperature for 10 minutes.
- Turn the oven down to 190°C (375°F) and cook for 25 more minutes. See my post if you think it might be too hot for your oven.
- Serve with wild mushrooms or potatoes or vegetables or all three.
For other French recipes by A Lady in France, click here.