Yesterday was a blast. Ken woke us at 7:10 AM and we opened gifts. I always prepare one of those overnight casseroles for Christmas breakfast so I can chill with the rest of the family while the food bakes in the oven. I usually make a strata (layered bread, sausage and cheese soaked in an egg custard), but this year I did a French toast bake that had a gooey brown sugar/butter layer on the bottom (like pecan rolls!).
Grace and I worked on the meal throughout the day– prepping, napping, cooking, chatting. Kurt divided his time between gaming, napping and stopping by to grab a cup of coffee or chat with us when we were in the kitchen. Ken was obsessed with his new drawing app for his new 3DS-XL. My main task was to prepare the Beef Wellington and scalloped oysters. Kurt would make the penne with pancetta, peas and roasted red pepper cream sauce right before we sat down, since it would be our first course.
Beef Wellington is a beef tenderloin filet coated with duck pate’ and mushroom duxelles, then wrapped in puff pastry. Very retro 70’s– decadent and rich. It’s not a difficult dish to prepare technically; there are a lot of steps, but you can complete these at your leisure– it’s a do-ahead kind of meal that once prepared, takes about 40 minutes to bake.
- 2 1/2 to 3 lb beef tenderloin, silver filament layer (“skin”) removed
- 1/4 lb duck or chicken liver pate (the smooth kind, not pate de campagne)
- 1 to 1 1/2 lbs mushrooms, (whatever mix you like, I use cremini and shitake)
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled (smash to remove peel)
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- salt and pepper
- 3 TB butter
- 1 lb puff pastry sheets
- 1 egg white
- egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 TB of water)
Even out your roast by folding the smaller end under and tying with kitchen string; generously season with salt and pepper:
Heat some olive oil in a large saute pan til hot. Sear the roast on all sides; don’t disturb the meat for at least two minutes– it takes that long for the crust to form which allows the meat to release easily when you want to turn it to the next side.
Once seared, let the meat rest on a rack set over a cutting board with a well for about 15 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours. In the meantime, prepare the mushrooms (duxelles). Note: If you use shitake, cut off and discard the entire stem– it is woody and not very good. Place the mushrooms and garlic into your food processor and pulse until very fine. Heat the butter in a skillet until foam has subsided, then add the chopped onion and saute til translucent. Add the mushrooms, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Saute until all the liquid has evaporated.
About 25 minutes before you want to assemble the roast, take the puff pastry out of the freezer to defrost; you should have two folded sheets in a 1 pound box. Beat the egg white slightly– it will be the “glue” to seal the pastry.
On a floured board, seal the two pastry sheets together by brushing the center edge of one sheet with egg white, then overlapping the and pressing the center edges together (I use a rolling pin to do this). Roll the sheets to form a large rectangle.
Now comes the fun, messy part. Take the chilled tenderloin out of the fridge and set it on paper towels to absorb any liquid. Use additional towels to soak up excess liquid.
Remove the strings– you don’t want anyone getting a mouthful of string!
The first layer is the duck pate’; it’s easier if you mash the pate first in a bowl then spread it on the tenderloin. Coat all three sides with the pate’, remembering to leave enough for the last side once you move the roast to the puff pastry!
Then comes the duxelles layer– we’ve just built in a LOT of flavor to this tenderloin. Remember to save some of the spread for the last side…
Here’s the truly messy part– take a look at the pastry and figure out the best way to place the roast (horizontally or vertically). Then, gently lift the roast and place it upside down onto the pastry.
Coat the top with the remaining pate’ and duxelles, then fold the pastry over to encase the roast. Trim excess dough– you will use it later to patch areas or decorate. Use the egg white to seal the edges. Fold pastry of the ends and seal. I decided I wanted some extra coverage on the ends, so I cut some of the leftover scrap dough and glued it onto the roast. I cut out some shapes for the top and glued them on with the egg white.
Set the roast on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. When you’re ready to bake the roast, place a rimmed cookie sheet large enough to hold the roast in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take the roast out of the refrigerator, brush it with the egg wash and make a few slits along the top to allow steam to escape.
When the oven is ready, lift the roast onto the heated tray. Bake for 35 minutes or until an internal temperature of 135 degrees. Place the roast on a cutting board to rest for at least 15 minutes.
Our Christmas meal, made with love and laughter–