Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington

Named after Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, this famous dish is not for feint-hearted cooks, but is well worth the effort if prepared correctly.


SERVES 8 TO 10


Be sure to use a smooth-textured pâté, not a coarse country pâté. For Cook’s Quickest Puff Pastry recipe, see the January/February 2001 issue, page 23 or visit www.cooksillustrated.com. If you prefer to use store-bought pastry, look for the Dufour brand in the freezer section of better grocery stores. One 14-ounce package will be enough; defrost it in the refrigerator for 3 hours before using. Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry will not work because the size of the sheets is not suited to the recipe, and they cannot be rolled to the correct size.


1 Dry-Aged Beef Tenderloin for Beef Wellington
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
5 ounces fine pâté, mashed until smooth Flour for dusting work surface
1 pound puff pastry, preferably homemade
1 large egg
1 recipe Duxelles


1. Heat 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until very hot, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, rub tenderloin with oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and lightly rub into meat.


2. Set tenderloin in hot skillet, curving it to fit if necessary, and sear on first side without moving, until well-browned, about 1 minute, pressing down on meat so that bottom of roast makes full contact with pan. Using tongs, rotate tenderloin and brown on all sides, about 1 minute per side. Remove from skillet and wrap hot tenderloin tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 24.


3. Unwrap tenderloin and cut off and discard twine. Using small spatula, spread pâté over top and sides of tenderloin; set aside.


4. Dust a large sheet of parchment paper with flour. Unwrap puff pastry and place on parchment; dust puff pastry lightly with flour and cover with second large sheet of parchment. Roll into 12 by 1 5-inch rectangle, mending cracks as you roll. Remove top sheet of parchment and with sharp knife trim two 1-inch bands off long side to form 10 by 1 5-inch rectangle; refrigerate bands on parchment-lined plate. (If dough is soft and sticky or tears easily, slide parchment with pastry onto baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.)


5. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water; set aside.


6. Remove plastic wrap from duxelles. - Follow-ing illustration 3, invert duxelles onto puff pastry; peel off parchment. Following illustration 4, place tenderloin pâté-side down onto duxelles-covered dough. Brush edges of dough lightly with beaten egg. Following illustrations 5 and 6, encase tenderloin in dough, wrapping tightly. (There should be about 1-inch overlap forming seam; if overlap is excessive, trim with scissors.) Carefully invert dough-wrapped tenderloin onto prepared baking sheet and brush dough lightly with beaten egg; refrigerate, uncovered, 30 minutes.


7. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Bake Wellington until light golden brown, about 15 minutes, then- arrange decorative ribbons on top. Continue to bake until deep golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers between 113 and 115 degrees for rare, about 15 minutes, or around 120 degrees for medium-rare, about 20 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes, transfer to carving platter, and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Serve with sauce (see Red Wine Sauce for Beef Wellington, above). Developing a robust, satiny sauce proved much easier than I had imagined. It took only a package of oxtails, a decent red wine, and some judicious simmering to produce this richly flavorful and full-bodied sauce, which doesn’t even require thickening.


RED WINE SAUCE FOR BEEF WELLINGTON


MAKES ABOUT 1 1/4 CUPS


The stock that is the base of this sauce can—and should—be made in advance. But do not finish the sauce (step 5, below) until the beef Wellington is in the oven.
2 1/2 pounds beef oxtails, trimmed of excess fat
2 medium carrots, chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
2 medium celery ribs, chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
4 small onions, chopped coarse (about 3 cups)
1 large garlic head, broken into cloves, unpeeled
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 bottle (750 ml) red wine
4–6 large shallots, minced (about 1 cup)
1 bay leaf 10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 (1 4 1/2-ounce) can low-sodium beef broth
1 (1 4 1/2-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns 6 parsley stems
1/4 cup ruby port
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into
4 pieces Salt and ground black pepper


1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine oxtails, carrots, celery, onions, and garlic in large flameproof roasting pan; spray lightly with cooking spray and toss to combine. Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until beef and vegetables are well-browned, 40 to 50 minutes, adding tomato paste to roasting pan after 30 minutes.


2. While oxtails and vegetables roast, bring wine, shallots, bay leaf, and thyme to simmer over medium heat in heavy-bottomed 8-quart stockpot or Dutch oven; reduce heat to low, and simmer slowly, uncovered, until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 30 minutes. Set pot aside.


3. Place roasting pan over burner(s) set at high; add beef and chicken broths and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits on bottom of pan with wooden spoon.


4. Transfer contents of roasting pan to stockpot with wine reduction. Add 7 cups water, peppercorns, and parsley stems, and bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until richly flavored and full-bodied, 3 to 4 hours. Strain broth into large glass measuring cup or container (you should have about 2 cups), discarding solids in strainer. Cool to room temperature; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.


5. While beef Wellington bakes, skim hardened fat from surface of stock using soup spoon and discard. Transfer stock to small saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat until reduced to about 1 cup, 10 to 15 minutes. Add port; set aside off heat.


6. While beef Wellington rests, return broth to simmer over medium heat and whisk in butter 1 piece at a time. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.