I’ve always loved the idea of Beef Wellington – lovely, tender beef wrapped in pastry. Seems ideal, doesn’t it? One problem: I don’t like mushrooms (one of the key ingredients). I’ve never liked them. They taste like dirt and they’re slimy.
For the sake of making a proper Beef Wellington, however, I put aside my prejudices and chose to trust my faithful food guru, Michel Roux – mushrooms and all.
Well, I don’t know what kind of mushroom I had tasted in the past that so put me off them entirely, but today I can say that I am happily proven wrong. Mushrooms, done right, rock. In fact, this recipe as a whole absolutely blew me away. If you have a day to kill (and really want to impress someone), this is the prize winning, blue-ribbon recipe you need. It comes from Michel Roux’s book Pastry, with some additional tips thrown in from Gordon Ramsey.
We’ll start with the brioche dough. This particular brioche recipe is firmer than regular brioche so it’s perfect for this beef en croûte.
- 260 ml tepid milk
- 12 g fresh yeast
- 450 g all-purpose flour
- 10 g fine salt
- 90 g unsalted butter, softened
- 45 g caster sugar
Put the milk and yeast in a bowl and mix to dissolve. Blend flour, salt and eggs in a separate bowl (or in a bread mixer, if you’re luckier than me). Add in the yeast mix and knead for 10 minutes, scraping the sides as you go. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
In another bowl, mix the sugar and butter. Incorporate this mix into your dough as best you can. I’d imagine a bread mixer would help here… I just spread it in by bits and hand mixed. It was a mess but eventually it came together.
Mix together until your dough is smooth and shiny. Put your dough in a bowl and cover loosely with cling film. It will need to proof (get larger) for about 1.5 – 2 hours.
The best way I have found to create a home “bread proofer” is to heat a bowl or mug of water for about 2 minutes in the microwave until steaming. This will make your microwave into a little make-shift proofer. Put your covered bowl of dough into the hot microwave with the cup of water (don’t turn it back on!). Just let it proof there for the recommended time. The dough should double in size.
After proofing, punch it down by flipping it twice in the bowl. Re-cover and refrigerate for an hour or until ready to use (not more than 24 hours).
For this recipe, you want a nice tender cut of meat – a tenderloin or beef filet. Mine was a 1lb tenderloin from Phil’s Meats. Dry and rub salt and pepper into your meat. Sear your tenderloin or beef filet in a very hot skillet briefly until all sides are brown. This will seal in the juices and give it a roasted flavor.
Immediately, while your meat is still warm, brush it with dijon mustard. I used a mustard/horseradish mix for more kick.
Set the beef aside and let it cool.
- 1 lb mushrooms (You can use a blend of many, or any kind you like. I chose Portabello because, remember, I hated all mushrooms, so it didn’t matter to me.)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 shallot
- 260 g of heavy cream
Heat 60g unsalted butter in a pan on medium heat. Add chopped mushrooms and lemon juice. Stir occasionally and cook down to remove moisture. Add a chopped shallot and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Add heavy cream and cook until all liquid is absorbed. Add salt and pepper to taste and cool. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Clean spinach leaves (the amount will depend on the size of your fillet). Dry well and set aside.
Beef Wellington requires a moisture barrier between the pastry dough and the meat. Mushrooms are not enough. Even spinach is not enough. You don’t want soggy dough. Michel Roux calls for crêpes as a barrier, but I had enough going on without having to make crêpes on top of everything else.
Gordon Ramsey uses paper-thin parma ham. I went with phyllo sheets. They worked well. Lay out a piece of cling film and then a sheet of phyllo. Top with spinach leaves.
Now another layer of the super thin phyllo, then the mushrooms.
While sizing it up, keep in mind what it will take to cover your particular piece of beef. Lay the meat in the middle and begin folding the phyllo over the meat like a package. If it tears a little, no problem. Phyllo dries out quickly, though, so don’t waste time. Wrap your package tightly in cling film and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
Now lightly flour the counter and roll out brioche dough large enough to envelope your meat. I just love this light and pillowy dough!
Brush the edges with egg wash and fold one side over the beef, then the other. Seal. Press the sides to seal and trim any excess. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This is a great dish to make for dinner parties as well because it can be kept in this state overnight and baked the next day.
Heat your oven to 400 degrees. When you’re ready to bake, brush the dough with egg wash (egg yolks) and score a design in the dough if you like (careful not to cut all the way through the dough). Make a small hole in the side of the dough for steam to escape. For some extra crunch, sprinkle with sea salt before baking.
Bake for 25 – 35 minutes. Keep an eye on the dough. If you see it getting too brown for your taste, create a tent from aluminum foil to shield the dough. You can also lower the temperature to 340 degrees.
Let your beef en croûte cool for at least 5 minutes before slicing. Unfortunately, when I sliced mine it was too rare, even for me. Next time, I think I will sear the beef longer before assembling.
I love it when things go perfectly but few things are insurmountable. I placed my slices flat on a baking sheet and baked them for an additional 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Perfect!
For stunning results, serve this dish with béarnaise sauce.
- 30 ml white wine vinegar
- 30 g shallot, finely chopped
- 45 ml tarragon leaves, snipped
- 10 cracked white peppercorns
- 4 egg yolks
- 250 g tepid clarified butter
- salt and pepper
Combine white wine vinegar, shallot and 2/3 the tarragon. Simmer and reduce. Let cool.
Whisk egg yolks over a low/medium heat bain marie until frothy and thick (8-10 minutes).
Off the heat, add the clarified butter gradually while whisking. Add salt and pepper to taste. Strain mixture and stir in the remaining tarragon. Serve immediately.
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