Tuesday, 21 February 2012

These Boots are Made for Eating

"Beef Wellington" Reinterpretato
Beef Wellington Reloaded

There is no point in getting into the discussion over whether Beef Wellington was named after the famous Duke, his shiny boots, or the city of Wellington, as no one can say for sure- the only thing that we do know is that the name is synonymous for meat of fish dishes that are wrapped in puff pastry. In the classic version, meat or fish is first coated in a paté of some kind, then in a layer of finely chopped mushrooms and then, finally, in pastry. My only problem with that, is that often, the pastry remains soggy on the inside- so I decided to cook my mushrooms separately and do without the paté... only I came up with a trick to give the meat a little added flavor... I don't want to make something more boring than the original after all!

I have been reading Harold McGees "On Food and Cooking" lately and soaking up information on the cooking of meat. On the subject of steaming, he said that being as steam is much hotter than boiling water, although it may seem a gentle method of cooking, when it comes to meat, it may dry out the meat from the outside by the time the interior is cooked. I found that to be an intriguing thought and developed a little idea out of it that I tried out in this little experiment...

Being as I was going to need a reduction of red wine in order to make my sauce, I decided to flavor the wine strongly and to set my steam-rack into the saucepan and pre-cook my little hunk of filet, to infuse it with a little flavor, but also to firm it up a little and to cut down the cooking time in the oven. I used port wine, regular Chianti, a splash of cognac, star anise, marjoram, rosemary and ginger. So into the steamer it went for 5 minutes. After this time I removed it, wrapped it in foil and allowed it to cool and rest.

Whilst it was steaming, I prepared a very fine dice or parsnip, which I fried in a drop of clarified butter and seasoned with salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar and a little nutmeg. I set these to one side as the topping for my mashed potato and began boiling the potatoes in milk whilst I turned my attention back to the now cooled beef.

I spread the beef with some Dijon mustard, then wrapped it in 2 layers of pastry and baked it at a relatively high temperature in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Whilst it was baking prepared the mashed potatoes, which I seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg and finished with a pat of butter. The mushrooms were simply sautéed at a moderate heat with salt, pepper and a little crushed garlic with a very small amount of clarified butter.

Once the pastry is puffed up nicely, turn on the broiler for a minute to give it a nice golden color and then turn the oven off to allow the meat to rest. Prepare your dish by serving the mashed potato with a topping of parsnip, then add the mushrooms and the Wellington and season both with a nice steak pepper mix. A pat of butter is an option I suppose... but not for me! I also do not like to drench my food in gravy- so I definitely spared you that in the photos! I made the gravy by adding grated shallot to the wine / herb mix and reducing it down over the entire cooking time. I added a little chilled butter at the end to give it a nice glaze and to make it more unctuous- again, a reason to do without extra butter on the meat... after all, it is coated in puff-pastry!

So there you have a slightly different interpretation of an old classic. And a rather fine one at that I might add!

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