Beef Wellington

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We've now made Tyler Florence's Ultimate Beef Wellington twice. It's a complicated recipe, I'm not crazy about this kind of cooking, and I don't think you get the bang for the buck, given the investment in time. But it is delicious.

This is basically chataeaubriand that's been seared, coated with duxelle and prosciutto, wrapped with puff pastry, then baked and served with a green peppercorn sauce. (Of course, we complicate the recipe by making the puff pastry from scratch. So start there. Or not. There is nothing wrong with frozen puff pastry.) With these ingredients, of course it's going to be good. The combination of bold flavors that match well, but don't necessarily meld, makees this recipe tolerant of mistakes. Even if you overcook the meat, the delicious duxelle with the buttery puff pastry will taste delicious.

Ingredients

A day in advance, prepare:

For the Beef Wellington:

  • 1 (3-pound) center cut beef tenderloin (filet mignon), trimmed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 thin slices prosciutto
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Flour, for rolling out puff pastry
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • Minced chives, for garnish

Serve with a green peppercorn sauce.

Recipe

Tie the tenderloin in 4 places so it holds its cylindrical shape while cooking. Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper and sear all over, including the ends, in a hot, heavy-based skillet lightly coated with olive oil - about 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile set out your prosciutto on a sheet of plastic wrap (plastic needs to be about a foot and a half in length so you can wrap and tie the roast up in it) on top of your cutting board. Shingle the prosciutto so it forms a rectangle that is big enough to encompass the entire filet of beef. Using a rubber spatula cover evenly with a thin layer of duxelles. Season the surface of the duxelles with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.

When the beef is seared, remove from heat, cut off twine and smear lightly all over with Dijon mustard. Allow to cool slightly, then roll up in the duxelles covered prosciutto using the plastic wrap to tie it up nice and tight. Tuck in the ends of the prosciutto as you roll to completely encompass the beef. Roll it up tightly in plastic wrap and twist the ends to seal it completely and hold it in a nice log shape. Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to ensure it maintains its shape.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to about a 1/4-inch thickness. Depending on the size of your sheets you may have to overlap 2 sheets and press them together. Remove beef from refrigerator and cut off plastic. Set the beef in the center of the pastry and fold over the longer sides, brushing with egg wash to seal. Trim ends if necessary then brush with egg wash and fold over to completely seal the beef - saving ends to use as a decoration on top if desired. Top with coarse sea salt. Place the beef seam side down on a baking sheet.

Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash then make a couple of slits in the top of the pastry using the tip of a paring knife - this creates vents that will allow the steam to escape when cooking. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until pastry is golden brown and beef registers 125 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.

Notes

The first time we made it, it was perfect. The second time we made it (December 25, 2011), we made several mistakes. Some learnings:

  • 3 lbs may seem like a small cut of meat, but you're going to double the mass with the dough and fixings. You can get 8 big-sized servings from a 3 lb cut
  • You don't need all of the duxelle to coat the beef. In fact, probably better not to overdo it, as it adds moisture, which affects the puff pastry while cooking
  • I sear the beef more than most people probably do. Because the beef is largely cooked beforehand, bringing it back up to 125 degrees actually cooks it a second time. You can probably get away with 120 or even 115 degrees