Beef Wellington (Classic Style)

Hubby and I spend each New Year’s Eve quietly at home, enjoying an elegant homemade dinner. This year, I opted to try Beef Wellington, a recipe I had clipped from the Jan. 2011 Fine Cooking magazine.

Beef Wellington

Beef tenderloin wrapped in chicken pâté/duxelles, crepes, and puff pastry

It just looked so yummy in the magazine: juicy red beef enveloped in flaky puff pastry crust. I knew one day I would try it.

Beef Wellington

Isn’t the baked Beef Wellington gorgeous all wrapped up in puff pastry?

Well, it’s more than just beef wrapped in puff pastry. It’s actually quite an involved recipe that takes several steps of prep (some which can be done in advance) and requires a lot of expense. See why I saved it for New Year’s Eve dinner? It’s definitely a splurge, both in cost and time.

Let me briefly explain Beef Wellington: a tender slab of center-cut beef tenderloin enveloped in a mixture of liver pâté and cooked, minced mushrooms spread onto crepes that are wrapped around the beef, which is then all wrapped into a puff pastry dough.

The pâté/mushroom mixture releases some fat into the meat as well as some savory flavor. The crepes help absorb the meat juice and keep the puff pastry crisp. It’s baked until the meat is rare,  then it is sliced and served with a savory and sweet Madeira sauce.

So, it involves buying an expensive piece of center-cut beef tenderloin, which I purchased at a local butcher shop.

I made my own beef broth, but you can easily purchase broth instead. The broth is used to make the Madeira sauce, which is poured over the cooked slices of Wellington (or you can serve the sauce in small dishes and use it for dipping, I suppose). The homemade broth can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for up to a couple months.

Next, I bought pricey Portobello mushrooms to make duxelles (duck-SO), which is a mixture of finely minced mushrooms, shallots, and herbs sautéed in butter and used as a stuffing or in sauces (see link for more uses). This step can be made ahead of time as well, refrigerated for a few days or frozen up to a couple months in advance.

Duxelles

Duxelles–not the most photogenic food, but the minced and cooked Portobello sure add savory depth to dishes

Then, I made chicken liver pâté. Chicken livers are inexpensive, the pâté is easy to make, and it actually tastes very savory spread on crackers or baguette slices. This, too, can be made a few days in advance and refrigerated (not sure if it can be frozen). It later gets mixed with the duxelles to form the pasty mixture that is spread onto the crepes and wrapped around the beef tenderloin.

Chicken Liver Pate

Chicken Liver Pate–tastes a lot more appetizing than it looks!

I made my own crepes, which can be a bit tricky. I’m not sure if crepes can be purchased frozen, but that would save some time. The crepes can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge.

Crepes

Crepes all ready for the duxelles/pâté spread

Beef Wellington

Dotting the pâté/duxelles mixture to make spreading it over the crepes easier

Beef Wellington

Place browned and cooled tenderloin onto crepes spread with pâté/duxelles, and wrap crepes snugly around tenderloin

Beef Wellington

See those extra crepes on the end? Cut them off; otherwise, you’ll get bug chunks of baked dough on the ends like I did!

You can make your own puff pastry, but I opted to purchase it instead–much easier and quicker.

Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington getting wrapped in puff pastry

Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington snuggly wrapped in puff pastry and ready for baking

You’ll need a bottle of Madeira wine to make the sauce.

Beef Wellington

See the Madeira sauce in the background?

It takes a lot to make this, but it’s well worth it, especially if you want to impress some guests.

Let’s recap quickly: beef tenderloin, duxelles, liver pâté, crepes, puff pastry, and Madeira…and time.

Throughout the process, I thought, “This is the only time I’m going to go through the effort to make all this.” However, now that we’ve tasted it and savored it for leftovers for two nights, I would certainly make it again, and the steps don’t seem as daunting now that I’ve made it.

What made the whole experience even more fun, though, is that I pulled out my fine china (rarely used), set up a lovely table, and had everything ready to serve the minute hubby walked in the door from work. I even got semi dressed up to celebrate the new year (and the excitement of hubby having started a new job right before Christmas, a career change that required two years of schooling and lots of interviewing these past few months). All in all, the entire meal was a smashing success!

Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington–layers of savory goodness

By the way, I served the Beef Wellington with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Mashed Cauliflower.

RECIPE:

Rather than  type up the entire lengthy recipe, I found a link to it on Fine Cooking’s website along with a video. Truly, it’s not as daunting as it all appears, and it’s well worth the effort if you are game for trying something new and on the gourmet side of cooking.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts (and the book Food Matters)

Despite all the sweet treats I share on the blog, hubby and I actually do eat fairly healthy a good portion of the time. Case in point, these roasted brussels sprouts, seasoned simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

If you remember last year around this time, I shared a Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad, which served as my initiation into liking brussels sprouts. Prior to that, hubby had only steamed them, which simply releases their atrocious sulfurous compounds and ruins the taste. Yuck!

But roasted? Totally a different story, folks! They get a bit charred on the outside yet transform into tenderness inside, and no stinky sulfurous release, either. Yay! The generous sprinkling of sea salt along with pepper and olive oil enhance the flavor, too. I LOVE ‘em this way. So simple yet so scrumptious.

Now for Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating. I spent the past couple days reading this book by Mark Bittman. Yes, it’s been around since 2002, but I’m a busy gal, okay? The basic premise of the book is to eat like food matters. I love that idea. I need to remember that what I put into my body matters.

Bittman suggests eating lots of plant foods, as close to their natural state as possible, as well as veggies, beans, fruits, and whole grains. He calls this sane eating vs. the insanity of eating excessive animal products, refined carbs, and junk food (and he provides tons of research to support the negative effects of insane eating, both on the individual and on the environment).

Now, the book isn’t about a specific diet but simply about changing our habits to eating like food matters. He writes, “…deny nothing; enjoy everything, but eat plants first and most” (65). Two-thirds of the book then provides recipes and ideas for eating like food matters.

In the past few years, I actually have practiced what Bittman advises, so his book simply reinforces a style I have embraced already. I really enjoyed the basic premise, though, and will reiterate it once more to close: eat like food matters. Let that guide you as you move forth into 2014. And consider starting soon with these roasted brussels sprouts. Cheers to a healthy new year!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Printer-Friendly Version

Yield: 2 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces brussels sprouts
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. (or more) of sea salt (I used Maldon sea salt)
  • sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut off the stem ends of the brussels sprouts. Pull off any yellow and spotted outer leaves. Cut brussels sprouts in half lengthwise and place on sheet pan. Toss with olive oil, then spread out on pan. Generously sprinkle with salt and lightly sprinkle with pepper.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn sprouts over; bake another 10-15 minutes until crisp on outside yet tender on inside.
  4. Sprinkle with more salt, if desired, and dust with parmesan cheese.

Note: I baked the sprouts an hour before serving, so I covered the pan with foil and placed back into the oven, heat as low as possible, to keep them warm.

SOURCE: slightly adapted from Food Network, Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa)

2013’s Most Popular Posts

Hubby and I prefer to stay home for a quiet and calm New Year’s Eve. We celebrate by cooking something special, usually lobster. However, two years ago I saved a recipe for Beef Wellington, and this year I’m finally going to try it. Hence, I’ve spent the entire day in the kitchen prepping. If all goes well tonight, I’ll share the recipe later this week.

Anyway, I decided to rest my weary feet a bit and catch up on some emails. Lo and behold, I received my annual report of the most popular posts for 2013 (all sweet treats, by the way), so I thought I’d quickly share them. A couple of the most-searched posts go back to 2011 and 2012!

Wishing each and every one of you a very healthy, happy, and peaceful 2014.

Most popular posts of 2013:

Kahlua Cheesecake

Kahlua Cheesecake

Kahlua Cheesecake: graham cracker crust, ganache layer, velvety Kahlua-flavored cheescake, sour-cream layer, and drizzled ganache topping. Can you say decadent?

Oreo Cheesecake Bites

Oreo Cheesecake Bites

Oreo Cheesecake Bites (2012): Still popular a year later, and rightfully so. These little babies pack a ton of chocolate-y flavor amidst tangy cheesecake. And oh-so-easy to make, too.

Ho Ho Cake

Ho Ho Cake

Ho Ho Cake: This light and airy layered cake garners a lot of oohs and aahs from its recipients. Very yummilicious cake.

Magic Custard Cake

Magic Custard Cake

Magic Custard Cake: Magic indeed as three layers appear from one batter!

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread (2011): Still going strong two years later, this pull-apart bread is simply fun with layers of dough stacked so they pull apart easily after baking. Drizzle with lots of glaze for a glorious treat.

Cookie Round Up 2013

How is it that Christmas is a mere handful of days away? It totally snuck up on me. I never got around to mailing my holiday cards, my tree still isn’t up, and I need to buy a few more gifts. Ahhhhhh!!

However, I did somehow manage to share a handful of cookie recipes with you–not as many as I had hoped, but a few nonetheless. So, here is a recap of the 2013 Holiday Cookie Line Up as well as links to the past couple years of line ups, all just in case you have a spare moment and need to bake up some yummy treats:

Molasses Spice Cookies

Molasses Spice Cookies

I began with these Molasses Spice Cookies. Warm winter spices in an easy-to-whip up dough and extremely yummy to inhale. Santa really loves these after he comes down the chimney :  )

Babbling Brook Cookies

Cookies from the Babbling Brook Inn in Santa Cruz…loaded with goodies

Equally easy-to-whip up but requiring an abundance of ingredients are these Babbling Brook Cookies, named after the inn that serves them. Very decadent.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Rich and ultra chocolatey Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Chocolate lovers, these Chocolate Truffle Cookies will steal your heart! Deeply and divinely rich.

Nut Horns

Nut Horns

Utterly European and utterly scrumptious are these Nuthorns, but they require time and patience and skill. I do include a link to a similar yet easier recipe.

Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

And finally, meet the fancy cousin of chocolate chip cookies: Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, and Sea Salt Cookies. If you haven’t invested in sea salt yet, these cookies provide a really, really great excuse for purchasing some.

Here are links to more cookies in case none of the above tickle your fancy:

2012 Holiday Cookie Roundup

2011 Holiday Cookie Roundup

And if you really don’t have time to bake but want some outstanding cookies to give as gifts (or to eat all by yourself), buy a box of Godiva Biscuits. One of my students gifted me a box on the last day of school before winter break, and it is freakin’ delicious!

2013 Holiday Cookie Line Up #5: Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, & Sea Salt Cookies

These dark chocolate chip pistachio cookies, enhanced with a sprinkle of sea salt, come together with ease…unless you insist on shelling pistachios rather than purchasing them already shelled.

Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Basically, these cookies are like a fancy-pants chocolate chip cookie. The typical semisweet chips get replaced with bittersweet dark chocolate chips, and instead of using walnuts or pecans, those get kicked up a notch with the use of pistachios. Best of all, though, is the sprinkle of sea salt atop the cookies. You get the sweet with a touch of the salty.

Now, go mix up a batch and treat your palate to a classy cookie with these Dark Chocolate Chip Pistachio delights. Better yet, treat someone else with a holiday gift of these cookies.

Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, & Sea Salt Cookies

Printer-Friendly Version

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt (such as Maldon)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup bittersweet chips (I use Ghiradelli brand)
  • 3/4 cup pistachios, chopped
  • sea salt, for sprinkling on cookies

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper of silpat baking mats.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. (Here is my method to get butter to the right consistency, which makes a huge difference in the cookies baking thick rather than flat: I cut the butter into several slices first and lay them out on a plate, then I gather all my other ingredients. By the time I finish putting everything together, the butter is softened enough to cream with the sugars but not too soft to ruin my cookies.)
  4. Add the egg and vanilla; beat for 2 minutes.
  5. Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Do not overmix or cookies will come out tough.
  6. Using a wooden spoon, stir in bittersweet chips and pistachios.
  7. Drop dough into 1 1/2 inch to 2 inch mounds onto cookie sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Sprinkle each mound with a touch of sea salt. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Allow cookies to sit on baking sheets for a couple minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Note: If you don’t want to bake all the dough, freeze the salt-sprinkled cookie mounds for an hour, then store in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer and bake as desired. Add an extra couple of minutes to the baking time if you bake them frozen; otherwise, they thaw in 10-15 minutes.

SOURCE: Two Peas and Their Pod

2013 Holiday Cookie Line-up #4: Nut Horns with Sour Cream Dough

Nuthorns. Little crescent-shaped cookies loaded with ground up walnuts mixed with sugar and egg whites. Enveloped in powdered sugar, these cookies hit the sweet spot.

Nut Horns

Nut Horns

Hubby’s stepmom, Judy, makes these, and I fell in love with them the first time we visited his family in Ohio back in 2005 and she made them for us. She gifted me the recipe, which she inherited from her mother, hailing back to a Czechoslovakian heritage. They taste very much like my favorite cookies from my Croatian heritage, so I was excited to have the recipe.

The first time I made these, they turned out HUGE, like Amazonian-sized cookies. Everyone laughed at me. The next time, I got the sizing right. I don’t make them often, though, because they are labor intensive. And there is still one element of these that hasn’t worked smoothly for me: the powdered sugar on Judy’s cookies melts into a glaze-like coating. Mine remain powdery. Still yummy, but not quite like hers.

If you feel up for a challenge, give these a try. If you want something similar yet much simpler in terms of effort, try the Walnut Pillows.

Nut Horns with Sour Cream Dough

Printer-Friendly Version

Yield: about 78 cookies

INGREDIENTS

Dough

  • 4 cups flour
  • 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 package instant yeast (that’s the Rapid Rise yeast)
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, cold
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp. water
  • powdered sugar for coating cookies

Filling

  • 1 1/2 pounds walnuts
  • 8 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 4 egg whites

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat baking mats.
  2. To make dough: In a large food processor, pulse together flour, granulated sugar, salt, and yeast. Add cold butter, cut into small pieces. Pulse until you begin to see pea-sized pieces of dough. (You can do this by hand, too, using two forks to mix the butter into the flour.)
  3. Add egg yolks, sour cream, and water. Pulse continuously until a ball of dough forms.
  4. Shape dough into 1-inch balls, placing them on a towel topped with a sheet of wax paper. Place another sheet of wax paper on top, followed by another towel (to keep dough warm). Allow dough to rise for 30 minutes (it won’t rise a lot).
  5. To make filling: Using food processor, pulse until nuts are finely ground. Add sugar and pulse until combined. Add egg whites a tablespoon at a time until filling is moistened. You don’t want the filling too loose nor too moist. It should be about right when you squeeze in in your hand the it sticks together.
  6. To assemble cookies: Roll each dough ball in powdered sugar, then use a rolling pin to flatten into a thin disc, about 1/8 inch thick and about 4 inches in diameter. Fill each circle of dough with about 1 tsp. of filling. Roll the dough into a cylindrical shape, pinch the ends, then roll in powdered sugar. Place onto cookies sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart, and form into a crescent.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Upon taking them out of oven and while still hot, give them another toss in the powdered sugar, then place on cooling racks to cool.

Note: these freeze well. Simply place in an airtight container. Judy recommends storing in tins rather than plastic, though, to prevent moisture from destroying the cookies.

SOURCE: my husband’s stepmother, Judy