Friday, December 28, 2012

Beef Wellington with Cumberland Sauce

Beef Wellington with Cumberland Sauce

My introduction to Beef Wellington came from a friend in Chicago with whom I had the pleasure to cook and cater some wonderful dinners, all the while studying Psychology. While I did not become a Psychologist, I am still cooking.

Nancy had convinced her friend Chef Louis to give her his prized Beef Wellington recipe by trading some or her own creations and then allowing me to assist in its preparation. I never did see the actual recipe – at the Chef’s insistence! Talk about a closely guarded secret!

From 1963 to 1989, Chef Louis’ individual Beef Wellington out sold every other item on the menu at his restaurant named The Bakery on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. He resisted publicly sharing his recipe until finally publishing it in his 1981 cookbook named for his restaurant – The Bakery Restaurant Cookbook.  We cannot imagine that a collection of our favorite foods would not include this dish that we’ve prepared for friends for nearly thirty years.

This one takes some preparation time and attention to detail, but most of the work can be done earlier in the day and the Wellingtons held for cooking until your guests arrive. As with any recipe, I suggest that you thoroughly read the preparation steps prior to beginning.

By the way, it was also under Nancy’s tutelage that I first shoved my hand inside a plucked goose (which had been alive only an hour before) and hold it over an open flame to burn off its remaining pin feathers – but that’s a story for another time!

Beef Wellington with Cumberland Sauce
Serves: 8     Total Time: 3 Hours


• 8 Beef Tenderloin Steaks (Filet Mignon); 6 ounces each and 3 inches across (ask your Butcher for  any meaty trimmings that he might have from cutting the Tenderloin or buy one additional 6 ounce steak.)
Olive Oil
• Kosher Salt
• Fresh Ground Black Pepper
• ½ pound Duck or Chicken Liver Páte
• 1½ Teaspoons Herbes de Provence
• Sweet Paprika
• Garlic Powder
• 4 batches any basic single Pie Crust recipe
• 2 Eggs
• 2 Tablespoons of Cold Water
2 Tablespoons Butter
• 2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
• 2 Cups Low Sodium Beef Stock
• 2 Teaspoons Orange Zest, minced
• ⅛ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
• ½ Cup Dry Red Wine
• ¼ Cup Black Raspberry Preserves
• Kitchen Bouquet® Browning Sauce

Preparation Steps

Step 1. Using parchment paper to separate them, lay each of the 8 steaks with their cut sides together on a piece of parchment paper large enough to roll up the whole reassembled tenderloin. Roll this log of meat up in the paper and fold the ends closed. Place the wrapped steaks in the freezer for at least an hour to firm up.

Step 2. If you are making the pie crusts from scratch, do that now and chill the dough in one ball as you normally would. If you are using prepared pie crusts (this is not a bad thing!), skip this step.

Step 3. Trim any fat from the trimmings or the additional steak and cut the meat into ½” cubes. Put the meat into a food processor and pulse until it’s finely ground, but not a paste.

Step 4. Mix the ground steak with the Páte, Herbes de Provence, ½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt & ¼ Teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper. Cover and refrigerate.

Step 5. Once the steaks have just begun to freeze, heat a large heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat. You’ll know the skillet is hot enough when a drop of oil immediately smokes when it hits the surface of the pan. Remove the steaks from the freezer and season the cut sides of each generously with Kosher Salt, then add Fresh Ground Black Pepper and a dash each of Paprika and Garlic Powder. Working with one steak at a time, brush with a thin coat of Olive Oil and sear every surface of the meat for 3 or 4 seconds.

Step 6.
Lay the seared steaks on a parchment or silicon mat lined baking sheet and return them to the freezer to re-chill for about 30 minutes.

Step 7. Remove the Páte mixture from the refrigerator and the steaks from the freezer. Divide the Páte mixture into 8 portions and mound on the top of each steak. Press down on the mound with the palm of your hand to smooth and spread the mixture just to the edge of the steak. Return the steaks to the freezer.
Beef Filet with Paté
A filet sitting on the 5" dough circle topped with páte

Step 8. Remove prepared pie crusts or dough ball from the refrigerator and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. After the rest period, roll the dough to a ⅛” thickness on a lightly floured surface. Make an egg wash with the Eggs whisked with two Tablespoons of cold water. 

Step 9. Cut the rolled dough into eight 5” diameter circles and eight 7” diameter circles. Brush a 1” wide band of egg wash around the edge of each circle. Remove the steaks from the freezer and place one centered on each 5” circle of dough.

Folding dough on Beef Wellington
Fold up bottom dough over top dough

Step 10. Lay the 7” circles directly on top of the steaks with the egg washed side up. Gently pull the edges down to lie on top of the exposed 1” of the bottom dough surrounding the steak. Fold the two layers of dough up and over and crimp as if you were sealing a two crust pie.

Crimping edges of dough on Beef Wellington
Crimp the edges of the dough with a fork

Step 11. Use the leftover dough to make a decorative leaf or other design for the top of each Wellington attaching the decoration with Egg Wash. Brush the surface of each completed Wellington with the egg wash. Dust a clean baking sheet with flour or line it with a clean silicone mat then arrange the Wellingtons 1” apart on the baking sheet and put in refrigerator. Refrigerate the remaining egg wash. Preparation up to this point can be done earlier in the day with the Wellingtons held in the refrigerator, but plan on placing the Wellingtons in the freezer for just 30 minutes prior to cooking.

Uncooked Beef Wellingtons
Two Wellingtons with decorative leaves and egg wash

Step 12. An hour before serving, prepare the Cumberland Sauce by heating the Beef Stock with the Orange Zest and Cayenne until just beginning to simmer; remove from heat.

Step 13. Combine the Butter and Flour in a medium sauce pan over medium heat to form a roux. When the roux is just beginning to brown slowly add the hot Beef Stock whisking slowly until smooth. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes.

Step 14. Combine the Red Wine and the Currant Preserves and stir this into the simmering Stock mixture until all the gelatin from the preserves has melted into the sauce. Remove from heat, add a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet to deepen the color and adjust seasoning to taste. Cover and keep warm.

Step 15. 20 to 30 minutes before serving, preheat oven to 475ºF and remove Wellingtons from the freezer. If the Wellingtons were resting on flour transfer them to a clean baking sheet keeping them separated by 1”. Skip this if you have them on a silicone mat.

Step 16. Bake Wellingtons, brushing lightly with the egg wash every 5 minutes, until done to taste. Use an instant read thermometer to check for doneness beginning at about 12 minutes for rare. Remove from oven when the internal temperature of the meat reaches 120ºF for rare, 125ºF for medium-rare and 130ºF for medium. Let the Wellingtons rest for 10 to 15 minutes loosely tented with aluminum foil. The internal temperature will rise to the desired doneness with the residual heat.

Serve each wellington set on top of a thin pool of Cumberland Sauce. Serve additional sauce on the side.

A finished Beef Wellington
A finished Beef Wellington

Adapted from a recipe from The Bakery Restaurant Cookbook

Tips and Trending

The egg wash does more than just make a glossy presentation – it is critical to keep the pastry from overcooking before the meat is cooked. So do not skip the egg wash every five minutes.

~ Filet Mignon should never be cooked beyond medium and timing is everything. For this reason it is very important to prepare side dishes that can rest while you give your undivided attention to the Wellingtons during the baking process, or have a personal sous chef (an assistant) to finish your side dishes. Overdone Filet Mignon is not just "nothing special" – it’s pretty awful!

~ If you wish to serve the Wellingtons at different degrees of doneness according to your guests preferences, vary the design you apply to the top of the pastry; one small leaf for rare, two for medium-rare and three for medium and remove them from the oven as they reach their target temperatures.

~ The traditional Beef Wellington is prepared using an intact tenderloin of beef, wrapped in the pastry and sliced about 1½ to 2 inches thick. Since these are individual Wellingtons you can adjust the quantity of ingredients by simply dividing or multiplying by the number you wish to feed. So it is entirely possible to make this for a romantic evening for two! 

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  1. I would love to kook this, it looks so good, but I have heard that Beef Wellington is one of the most difficult dishes out there.

  2. Beef Wellington is a complex dish to prepare, however if you take your time and follow each step, you can successfully prepare this delicious special treat!