There are certain main courses synonymous with specific holidays — turkey for Thanksgiving, ham for Easter, prime rib for Christmas — and I’ve made them all. A few years ago, we had a New Year’s Eve dinner party, and because I still had prime rib in the fridge from Christmas, I decided to make individual beef Wellingtons: filet mignon steaks coated in pâté and a mushroom and shallot mixture (duxelles) then wrapped in puffed pastry and baked. In traditional versions, the pâté is seared foie gras (fatted goose or duck liver, now illegal in California because of the inhumane way it is produced by force feeding the fowl until their liver nearly explodes), but any pâté will suffice (truffle, chicken liver, or pork), and it is completely optional. For the mushroom duxelles, I prefer a mix of wild mushrooms, but any mushroom (white button, porcini, shiitake, baby bella) will work.
The individual Wellingtons were a big hit for our intimate New Year’s Eve gathering, but for a larger gathering at Christmas one year I made whole tenderloin of beef Wellington. (Most grocery stores have whole tenderloins, but you’ll have to ask the butcher to bring one from the back. As always, I recommend buying responsibly and humanely raised, locally produced beef from a reputable source — it’s important to know where the meat you eat comes from.) While still expensive, you get a better price per pound on beef tenderloin when buying it whole than you do buying individual filets, and if you want to serve individual Wellingtons you can have your butcher cut the tenderloin into 4-ounce portions, or you can do it yourself (with a very sharp knife so as not to mangle the meat). Even individual Wellingtons are sure to impress, but carving a whole tenderloin Wellington tableside adds that extra dramatic flair for holiday guests.
Note: Directions and cook times are the same for either individual or whole tenderloin beef Wellington, but for the individual servings you’ll need to cut the puff pastry into four to eight squares to wrap around each filet.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper
- 2½ pounds center cut beef tenderloin
- 4 tablespoons pâté (liver, truffle, mushroom), room temperature (optional)
- 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry from a 17.5 ounce package, thawed (use both sheets if making eight individual Wellingtons)
- Egg wash (1 egg beaten with a teaspoon of water or milk)
Heat oil in a heavy 10-inch skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat. Sprinkle the tenderloin generously on all sides with salt and pepper. Sear the beef on all sides until a brown crust forms (about 3 minutes per side). Remove meat to a baking sheet and cool completely. Set aside pan with drippings for later use. Once cooled, wrap the tenderloin in plastic and chill for one to two hours.
Meanwhile, make the duxelles (recipe below).
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If using, mix together pâté, butter, salt, and pepper and spread a thin, even layer over entire chilled tenderloin. Spread a thin, even layer of duxelles on top of pâté (if not using pâté, rub tenderloin with softened butter before adding duxelles).
On a flat, flour-dusted surface, roll out puff pastry dough until it is large enough to wrap around beef (about 4 inches longer and 8 inches wider for a whole tenderloin). Place meat in center of pastry and brush edges with egg wash. Bring the two ends of the pastry over the beef and then fold up the sides. Gently push down on seams to make certain they are not too thick and are completely sealed.
Place the beef seam-side down on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush all over with egg wash. Cut four slits on top and sprinkle with coarse or flaky sea salt.
Place Wellington in oven and immediately reduce heat to 400 degrees. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reads 120 degrees (30 to 40 minutes). Remove from the oven and let rest 10 to 15 minutes, or until thermometer registers 125 degrees for medium rare.
Slice into one-inch-thick pieces and serve with green vegetable such as spinach or Brussels sprouts and red wine sauce (recipe follows).
- 1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1 to 2 shallots (about 3 tablespoons), finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme or 1½ tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- ½ teaspoon dried parsley or 1½ tablespoons fresh parsley
- ¼ cup dry sherry or white wine
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Italian parsley, finely chopped
Add mushrooms to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Scrape mushrooms onto paper towels and press with additional paper towels to remove excess liquid. Put into a mixing bowl. Add the shallots to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Scrape shallots into mixing bowl with mushrooms.
Reheat the skillet with tenderloin drippings over medium-high heat. Add butter and swirl until foaming. Add mushrooms, shallots, salt, pepper, and thyme. Sauté until shallots are softened and mushrooms are browned and appear dry, stirring frequently (8 to 10 minutes). Add the sherry or wine and Worcestershire sauce and stir mixture until the alcohol has cooked out and the liquid evaporates (5 to 6 minutes or until you no longer smell alcohol). Remove from heat, add fresh parsley, and set aside to cool.
RED WINE SAUCE
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 1 cup low-sodium beef stock
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
While Wellington is resting, heat a small pan over medium heat and swirl butter until foaming. Add the shallots and sauté for five minutes, or until softened. Add the red wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the wine has reduced by half. Add the beef stock, return to a boil, and cook until the liquid has reduced again by half. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.