Wellington Beef

little pastry … Wellington Beef

Make beef wellington.

It's a ton of work, it's very

Expensive, it's extremely error prone, and i don't think it's that good to eat.

But if you want to see me make a Wellington, well, here you go. This is the last time, I'll tell you that. Maybe I'll throw a few usable ideas your way. You can of course buy frozen puff pastry but I actually think the dish is better if you make what they call a "rough" puff pastry. Real, machine-made puff pastry is too delicate. It just flakes off. So for a homemade rough puff pastry I am cutting one pound, 454g of cold butter into large cubes.

Large chunks will roll out into very wide sheets and that's what makes pastries flakey. Transfer those to a big bowl and now I'll weigh an equal quantity of all purpose four. 1:1 butter to flour. There will be more flour later, in the rolling process. If you use unsalted butter, like I did, I'd do about 15g of salt — that's a tablespoon of Morton kosher. And for flavor and browning, a teaspoon or two of sugar will have a subtle effect. I'll toss that all together, mostly to get each butter cube coated in flour so that they won't stick to each other. Then it's time to work in just enough cold water to bring this into a shaggy, lumpy dough.

Too much water will make the pastry tough in the end, so literally just enough to barely bring this into a single mass. Let it sit in the fridge for at least a half hour to firm the butter back up and to let the flour participles hydrate. Pull it back out and now it's much more cohesive. Flour the counter, flour the dough and start rolling. You gotta be really gentle on the first roll. It's liable to crack. Just roll a little and turn, roll a little and turn. Turning ensures that the bottom is getting floured and it's not sticking, and it helps you roll every part of the dough evenly.

And try to get it into something like a rectangle, until it's about yay thick — a centimeter, maybe? Now fold the dough in on itself in thirds, like a letter. That moves the rougher edges inside where you can even them out in the next rolling, which will go much easier. The dough is getting more pliable. I don't have to be as gentle. Fold it again like a letter, and repeat. We're gonna roll it and fold it a total of six times, flouring the dough and the counter every time. The flour you scatter on gets between the buttery layers, creating laminations that can separate when the dough puffs up with steam in the oven. After maybe the fourth fold, things start to get physically harder again.

This is the gluten network starting to tense up. It requires a little more elbow grease, but it's really not that hard, and 10 minutes of rolling later, here is the sixth and final fold. I'll roll it a little bit just to make the layers stick, but we don't need to roll it thin yet.

Wrap it up in something, let the

Butter chill again the fridge so that it doesn't melt and let the gluten relax, again for another half hour at least.


There are two extra muscles we need to get off. This one up up at the fat end is called the iliacus muscle. You can see the seam of gristle connecting it to the main psoas major muscle. If you're unsure, literally just pull and it will tear along that seam, up to a point. You may have to get in with your knife and finish the job. But if we didn't take this off, all thar connective tissue between these muscles would be inside our roast and that would be gross. The iliacus is a great mini roast that you can use another day. Then there's the psoas minor muscle, also known as the chain.

It's a very thin, long muscle that runs along side the psoas major. Again, if you just pull, the seem will present itself — it's the first thing that tears. The chain is full of tasty fat. It's great for kebabs. We're left with the psoas major, which we just need to trim of all that exterior connective tissue, especially the silver skin there.

Just get up underneath it and shave it off.

You don't have to get off every

Gram of it off, but most of it.

It's super chewy.

Then there's also some big globs of inter-muscular fat you probably want to shave off, especially on the flip side where the vertebrae used to be. I'm less worried about trimming fat. There you go, nice and clean. Now, really only the center portion works for a Wellington. The ends are too thin, they'd be horribly overcooked. Use those for something else. I'm gonna freeze all my edible trimmings for another day. That center-cut roast, fully butchered, would probably cost about as much as the whole tenderloin.

Season that two pound roast aggressively with salt and pepper. There's a lot of meat there to flavor. And I'll massage that with a thin film of oil before dropping it into an extremely hot pan — as hot as you can go without burning anything. The goal is to get some brown flavor on the outside of this while cooking the inside not at all, so I'ma roll this around and then not a minute later, out it comes. But while this pan is hot, I'ma drop in all of my inedible trimmings — all of that silver skin and everything. This will give flavor and body to my sauce. While all that browns, I'll roughly chop some shallots. I'd use a whole big onion instead, if I had one.

Super rough — it's all getting strained out in the end, and in with the beef trimmings to brown. Once I've got nice color all around, I'll drop in a tiny spoon of tomato paste. Not worth opening a whole can just for this. Just use if it you've got it handy. Brown that for a second and then before stuff starts burning I'll deglaze with like half a bottle of red wine. You could just use water. If you want to use some fruit juice, just use a tiny splash, otherwise the sauce will be way too sweet. The advantage of cooking with wine is that most of the sugar has been fermented away.

Even still, I will top this off with at least as much water. I always think sauces made with straight red wine are way too strong. Now we just simmer those trimmings for as long as we've got. An hour at least, I'd say. So the traditional filling that goes between the beef and the crust is a mushroom duxelles. My wife Lauren doesn't like mushrooms so she suggested some puréed greens bound with breadcrumbs, so we'll try that. I put in half a bag of baby spinach for color and for flavor I've got half a bunch of fresh parsley and some sage leaves, just because I have them. Some pepper, pinch of salt, maybe some ground ginger to make it Christmassy, and then to get a moldable texture it's about one part bread crumbs to two parts greens.

I'm using panko because it's more absorbent, and one function of this layer in any Wellington is to soak up juices from the roast so the pastry doesn't get wet.

I'll puree that smooth, and now I

Should be able to fit in the rest of that 6 ounce, 170g bag of spinach, the rest of that bunch of parsley and a matching dose of panko, etc.

Blend blend. I'll give it a squeeze of lime juice — might help prevent some enzymatic browning but I don't want to use too much or it'll taste weird. There we go — you need a texture kinda like modeling clay. OK, what's very traditional is to coat the seared roast in mustard. A nice, thick layer. Now, I'ma grab a sheet of plastic wrap and lay down enough of my green stuff to coat the bottom of the roast.

Whether it's this or the normal creamy mushroom paste, the trick is getting it pretty much as thin as you can get it, which won't be that thin. Roast on top, mold the rest all the way around. Don't worry about the ends — you're just gonna trim those off. It'd also be traditional to make some crepes to wrap around this, again to absorb juices. I'ma bet on the absorbing power of panko to do that job. It'd also be traditional to wrap this in thin-sliced parma ham. I think that's just excessive. I'll wrap that up, take out my pastry and stow the beef in here while we roll a final time.

We can reuse that plastic. Plenty of flour, and now we roll into a shape that will envelope our roast, and thickness about half a centimeter maybe? Oh, last thing — I need to beat an egg with a little water to make an egg wash for glue. Roast goes on. I'm gonna have some excess pastry, but that's better than not having enough. You can use the excess for something else or you can cut out little strips for a lattice decoration on top. Paint some egg wash on that seam so it seals, hide the seam on the bottom. Crimp the ends, wrap in plastic, and this much you could do the day before. Throw I in the fridge.

Sauce is ready to strain. I'ma do it in my gravy separator so I can get out some of the fat. I've got some cheese cloth there to get out finer particles because we're being fancy today. There's no way I'm not gonna spill this and yes I'm spilling. This you could throw in the fridge the day before — the fat would solidify on top and you could just lift it off. Or do it right now with a gravy separator. A little fresh thyme in there to infuse. I'm just gonna reduce this a little bit.

If you want a thick sauce you could reduce it to a glaze. I want a thinner, more voluminous sauce that I can really flood the plate with, so that's enough. Thyme out.

Now I will lower the heat so

There's no bubbling and i will gradually emulsify in a ton of cold butter.

Monte au beurre.

As long as you go slow and you don't get the butter too hot, the sauce will accept a nearly endless amount of butter. This tastes great and it helps you get the sauce volume you need to serve everybody. That was salted butter, so I won't need to season this.

I'll pour it into a sauce boat and I can reheat that in the microwave right before dinner, on low power. If it boils, the emulsion breaks and it won't be thick anymore, so be careful. A little flour on my sheet pan to keep the Wellington from sticking, and on it goes. To try to cook this without a probe thermometer would be an act of pure self-hatred. It's the only way to know what's happening. Paint this with the rest of our egg wash — that'll make it brown and shiny. And a very easy way to decorate is to score the top with a knife, after you've painted with the egg. That'll get you a better color contrast.

A leaf is a pretty easy shape to make. Just make your cuts very shallow. I went too deep on a lot of these and you'll see them spread too much in the oven — the lines get too thick. You want shallow cuts for fine lines. In my oven, 425ºF convection works, 220ºC, but you can adjust as it bakes, if it looks like the outside isn't gonna be brown enough by the time the beef is done — you can jack up the heat as you go. The key is to take it out way before the beef is as done as you want it. I'm pulling it at 110ºF, 43ºC. The beef is encased in its own little oven.

There's gonna be a ton of carryover as this rests — look, we went from 110 to 135ºF outside the oven. That's almost medium. I'd like it rarer. At the last minute I'll steam some broccolini until fork tender. Those always look nice. You really need a serrated knife to cut this or the pastry will just shatter, and it'll shatter if you try to do a thin slice. It's gotta be thick and chunky. We've got six portions, tops, from this roast.

Flood the plate with the sauce, lay on the Wellington, vegetables, and there you go. Is it worth it? Absolutely not, in my opinion. How are you even supposed to eat these things? They just fall apart. Not a fan, though that sauce is fire, as the kids say. I think for. Christmas dinner this year I'm just gonna do a normal tenderloin roast with that sauce, but you know, you do you...