Out of nowhere I got a craving. Beef Wellington. Actually my interest was piqued when a co-worker served an appetizer version at his wedding reception a few years ago, but since Tammy hates mushrooms I decided it would become one of those things I would live without. Bangs being another example. Over the holidays when I was depriving myself of nothing and getting nice and doughy in the process, I decided it was time. Feeling adventurous, I resolved to not only stuff myself with it, but to make it as well.
I'm an okay cook, but I have a tendency to... uhhh... experiment. There's an expression in sports about "playing within yourself". A basketball player may not be lightning fast or able to dunk, but he plays good defense and has a decent outside shot. It would be wise for that player to stick to what he's good at and not try to do things he can't do very well. He should play within himself. Inevitably, however, a moment will come when a head fake gets his defender in the air, and our man decides to take it the rim, frequently resulting in catastrophe. While I consider myself to be a phenomenal basketball player with a complete catalogue of skills, I don't always cook within myself. Tilapia Parmagiana comes to mind.
So when I decided to tackle Beef Wellington I sought out assistance. Again, Tammy hates mushrooms, but she was willing to work through it to lend a hand if needed. Dina would be there as well, so I had safety in numbers. The next thing I needed was a recipe, and Tyler Florence was my target. Tyler's Ultimate Pulled Pork Sandwich had been a home run, so I was sticking with him, and fortunately there was a Tyler's Ultimate Beef Wellington.
One week and $92 later the ingredients and Tammy were gathered in my kitchen with me. It was about 10AM, and a mushroom paste known as Duxelles was at the top of the priority list. Unless wikipedia is lying to me again, Duxelles was created by a 17th century chef, who named it after his employer: The Marquis d’Uxelles (I guarantee you that guy was a pain in the ass).
Anywho, Tammy food processored a pound and a half of mushrooms with some garlic cloves, shallots, and thyme, and then I dumped that into a pan with a mixture of hot oil and melted butter to get awesome. Next up was trimming and tying up a 3 lb beef tenderloin and then seasoning it with salt and pepper and drizzling it with olive oil. The tenderloin looked absolutely fantastic except at the moment when Tammy captured this photo. You can only imagine the juvenile comments I’ve received from even highly unlikely sources.
Into an extremely hot pan went the tenderloin to sear – in what else? – the bacon grease from that morning’s breakfast! I know, right? Two minutes on each of the 4 sides, plus both ends created a perfect crust to hold in all of the juices.
You need to understand, having started so early we were able to work at a very leisurely pace, and we took frequent breaks to do this and that.
Why do you need to understand this?
Because I pointed out that we began the process around 10AM, and in the following photo we’re still on step two, yet I know for a fact I was on at least my third beer. My best guess would put it around 2PM.
The Duxelles was thoroughly drained (very important for keeping the pastry from getting soggy), and the beef had cooled, so it was time to assemble. Plastic wrap was laid out and topped with a layer of prosciutto (bacon’s snobby cousin) large enough to wrap completely around the beef. On top of that we spread a thick layer of the Duxelles. And no, I don’t just like saying that word.
Wrap everything up in the plastic and twist the ends to make it nice and tight, kinda like a sausage, and stick it in the fridge for 30 minutes to set up. Then take it out, take off the plastic, wrap it in the pastry, cut a few slits to let it vent, and if you’re Tammy, cut out your and your husband’s initials for decorations, not to mention adding a heart you can’t see in this picture.
Trust me when I tell you, no one was more surprised than I was when this elaborate experiment came out of the oven looking this freaking good, but amid the oohs and ahhs I played it cool.
Continue to trust me when I tell you how skeptical I was that the inside would look as good.
Think of the happiest you’ve ever been. That’s how I felt when I sliced it and saw it looking this perfect. It was love at first sight. Not in an American Pie way, but you know what I mean. If I hadn’t switched to wine before it came out, I did so then. Sort of like Red Auerbach lighting his victory cigar. Now it was just a little past medium rare, but this was the narrower end, and the other, thicker end was just the way I like it.
The Team at the end of a successful day. Tammy felt that a cooking prop would be appropriate. I appear much calmer and more cheerful in this photo than I was considering it was delaying my opportunity to eat what I had spent all day making.
Behold! Beef Wellington with brandy cream sauce and roasted fingerling potatoes.
Behold! Beef Wellington with brandy cream sauce and roasted fingerling potatoes and a glass of wine.
As we ate we started talking about how a blog would be a cool way for us to combine our hobbies. I thought, “Cooking. Taking pictures. Food-tography!” And a new project was born.
It’s certainly not going to be a daily blog or even weekly. Maybe not even monthly, but when we get together to whip up some grub, we’ll share it. I’m concerned that we set the bar too high, because nothing else is going to be as fancy as Beef Wellington, but it will be just as tasty as long as Dina and Tammy monitor my experiments.
By the way, guess what we had for breakfast the next day.
(Written by Gregg, Photos by Tammy, Cooking by Tammy & Gregg)