Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The Beef on the Battle of Waterloo.

Happy New Year 2024!  As usual, our celebration was quiet, sort of.  We indulged in take-out from Ja-Roen Thai and Sushi; their Ja-Roen Roll is quite addicting.  While Roy was at work, wishing good cheer to travelers passing through Monticello, our neighbors put on a fireworks display at midnight.  By quarter after midnight, all was quiet, so hunkering down for a relaxing sleep was the last of the New Year’s Eve to-do list.

During the weeks before the Christmas holiday, much baking and cooking was done by yours truly.  Besides the yearly treats given out, prepping and planning went into meals, not just for ourselves, but for Roy’s mother and brother down in Moab.  So, that week between Christmas and New Year’s was definitely one of limbo.  I rightly cannot say what I did, overall, during that week.  I know I had intentions, one being writing, but as I stared at the computer screen, the photos and words refused to come into focus.  It was not so much a case of writer’s block, but one of “writer’s brain vacation”.

Ah, but now it is the New Year, the bullet train of holidays is at the depot for maintenance.  The coming months will still have a holiday, or two, but none that will make us go into hyperdrive; we hope.  What did I create for the Christmas holiday of 2023?  By request, from Roy, he wondered if I would make a dish, one he had only once before, but remembered well.  That dish was Beef Wellington sans the liver pate, but stuffed with a rich mixture of mushrooms and red onions.  Recipe history time!


Beef Wellington and Potatoes Au Gratin


In Britain, the development of Beef Wellington is attributed to Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, whose army helped to defeat Napoleon Bonaparte, at the Battle of Waterloo (1815).  However, the encasing of some type of meat within a dough was a technique used in France, England, and even in Poland, for centuries before hand.  Culinary historians think that the dish was named, actually, after a style of boot that the 1st Duke wore, coincidentally named the “Wellington boot”.  Why?  Supposedly the structure of the meat within the dough, once baked, resembled the boot, and was served during the celebration of Napoleon’s humiliating defeat.  I guess this could be equated to Britian “stepping on the little guy and showing him who’s boss”.

Traditionally, the recipe for Beef Wellington comes from France.  It consists of a beef tenderloin wrapped in layers of pâté (goose liver), duxelles (finely chopped mixture of mushrooms), Parma ham (aka prosciutto), wrapped in puff pastry, then baked.  The tenderloin is typically about 1 and ½ lbs. and kept cold before wrapped in its layers and baked.  After baking for one hour, the meat is extremely rare and dripping with flavorful juices.  However, the meat can be seen as equivalent to raw, with the additional liquid from the pate and mushrooms creating a soggy texture within.  Though it looks impressive, this type of dish takes a lot of prep work if you want it to come out correctly.  Discouraged?  Do not give up before even trying!  Remember, this is a new year, and for those who like to cook, and especially try new recipes, make this your year of bravery.  What is bravery?  Being scared of doing something, but doing it anyway!  So, the new motto for 2024 is, “Be brave and do it anyway!”

Now, in our household, goose liver, or any type of liver, will not be on our menu; and we are not huge fans of ham either.  Therefore, my recipe for Beef Wellington will be just that, the way I do it, but that does not mean you cannot give the original recipe a try.  For the mushrooms, typically only white, brown or Portobello can be found, and all of them work well for this dish.  Using fancy mushrooms, like Chanterelles, can be pricey, and once diced up, well no one will be able to tell the difference between them, and a cheaper white mushroom.  For the beef, look for a lean cut, but do not allow it to break your bank; while a beautiful eye round roast could be $10/lb., a London broil, at half the price, works very well.  Also, in the original recipe, the roast is covered, raw, in layers of pate, mushrooms and ham before being encased in the puff pastry.  With my technique, the meat is butterflied open with the mushroom/onion filling rolled within the meat itself.  Once completed, and cut into slices, it still becomes a pretty presentation on the plate.


Gravy draped over.

Sitting atop gravy.








Beef Wellington



2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. butter

1 large red onion, diced

½ lb. mushrooms, diced

¼ cup beef broth

2 lb. London broil (trim off as much fat as possible, the leaner the better)

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. crushed, dried thyme leaves

1 sheet thawed puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm brand recommended)

1 egg, beaten



In a medium sized skillet, on low heat, melt butter into oil; sauté mushrooms and onion for 20 minutes.  Raise heat to high, add broth and allow to cook down for 7-10 minutes.







Cut the London broil lengthwise, through the center, but not all the way through, leave about ½ inch on long side, and open up (this is butterflying open the meat).  With a meat mallet, pound out the meat to about ¼ inch thickness.  Mix together salt, black pepper and thyme, sprinkle over interior of the meat.  The mushroom/onion mixture should be cool enough to handle, spread evenly over the meat, leaving ½ inch clean around the edges.  Carefully begin to roll the meat, stuffing back any filling that might come out the sides.  Seam side up, wrap tightly in aluminum foil and place inside refrigerator for 2 hours.


Preheat oven to 425F.  In a large skillet, high heat, seam side down, brown meat; rotate till all meat has been browned.  Rewrap into aluminum foil, place inside pan and roast for 50-60 minutes, or internal temperature reads “Rare”.  Remove from oven and let rest; keep oven on.





While meat is resting, sprinkle flour on board, or clean counter top, and roll out puff pastry to double its original size.  Remove meat from foil, and place in center of pastry. Brush edges with beaten egg and fold pastry over long sides first from top of pastry to bottom.  Take one end of pastry, drape over meat and rest of remaining pastry.  Take other end of pastry and fold over both remaining pastry and already covered meat.  Tuck seam under the entire roll, and place inside baking pan.  If desired, indent pastry with a design, being careful not to cut all the way through the dough.  Bake 20-25 minutes, or until puff pastry is golden brown.

Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes to allow juices to redistribute inside the meat.  Cut one inch slice per serving.

Makes 10-12 servings, dependent on how long butterflied meat was pounded out to.

The directions might read a little confusing, especially wrapping the meat inside the pastry.  If you have ever made burritos, it is similar to this procedure.  As I stated before though, make 2024 the year of being brave, and no matter how difficult a recipe might read, try it anyway!

Mary Cokenour





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