By: Justin & Kayla Butts Photos By: Rachel Benavides
Beef Wellington is an iconic British dish. It also happens to be identical to the French filet de boeuf en croute. To complicate matters, this French dish with a British name was popularized not in England, but in America! So, what’s the story with Beef Wellington?
In the early 1800s, filet de boeuf en croute was a classic French dish served at the tables of the wealthy. The main ingredient, filet, or tenderloin, was the most expensive cut of beef. The rich duxelles (finely chopped mushrooms, shallots, onion, and herbs) and delicate puff pastry made this dish a favorite of the French upper-crust.
Then, in 1815, the British general Sir Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, issued a stunning defeat to Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. According to lore, Wellington’s favorite supper was filet de boeuf en croute. In honor of his great victory, this dish was (supposedly) renamed Beef Wellington.
Here is the problem: There is no corroboration of the Wellington connection, and no mention of Beef Wellington in British cookbooks throughout the 19th century. The first citing of this name does not appear until 1903 in a Chicago newspaper. Beef Wellington was not mentioned again until 1939, this time in a New York City newspaper.
What’s certain is that in 1965, the legendary chef Julia Child, a master of French cuisine, featured Beef Wellington on her hit American television show, and the dish instantly achieved iconic status. The wives of America, in perfect “Mad Men” style, were soon serving millions of Beef Wellingtons to their upwardly mobile husbands.
Most likely, Beef Wellington was a cultural appropriation, in which the English took the dish from France but changed the name to their own celebrated French-defeating hero. Even more curiously, this may be a double cultural appropriation, where third-party Americans took the delicious dish from France and the cool name from England.
There is no doubt, though, that Beef Wellington is a right proper name for such an elegant dish. It’s absolutely exquisite fare, the height of luxurious dining. You will feel like a British lord when you sit down to this show-stopper.
Be sure not to overcook the tenderloin – keep it rare. You will almost be able to slice this succulent beef with a butter knife. Also, make sure to cook all the moisture from the duxelles to prevent the puff pastry from becoming moist on bottom.
We used prepared puff pastry to shorten prep time and keep the dish simple, something you can make on a weeknight. If you want to go all the way with homemade puff pastry, see our Puff Pastry recipe at thebendmag.com. No matter how you slice this dish, it will likely be the best thing you taste all week!
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
2 lbs beef tenderloin
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp thyme, chopped
1 package prosciutto
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg, beaten, with a dash of salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced (~1/4 cup)
8 oz assorted mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry vermouth
11/2tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tbsp butter
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup sherry
1 cup beef broth
2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 sprigs fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 425°F. Place a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Season tenderloin liberally with salt and pepper. Sear loin in olive oil until a brown crust forms, about 60 seconds on each side. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Reduce heat to medium and add butter to the same skillet. Once melted, add shallots and caramelize for 3 minutes, until translucent. Add mushrooms and vermouth and cook an additional 7-10 minutes, until liquid reduces and mostly evaporates. Finish with fresh thyme.
Lay out parchment paper 18” in length on a clean surface. Prepare surface with a sprinkling of all-purpose flour. Roll out puff pastry until large enough to envelop the tenderloin (allow 3” overlap on all sides when loin is in the center of the pastry).
Coat all sides of tenderloin with Dijon mustard and sprinkle with thyme leaves. Spoon duxelles on top of loin and cover with prosciutto. Rotate loin and repeat until completely coated with duxelles and secured with prosciutto.
Transfer to puff pastry and carefully wrap loin in pastry as you would a present, sealing with egg wash and pinching the ends if necessary. Transfer pastry-wrapped loin to an oiled baking sheet with the seam side down. Brush exposed surfaces with egg and score pastry with a decorative pattern using a sharp knife. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, until pastry is a deep golden brown.
While Beef Wellington cooks, place the same skillet used before over medium heat. Melt butter and cook shallots until translucent. Deglaze the pan by increasing to high heat, adding sherry, and stirring vigorously to release the flavorful bits from the bottom of the skillet. Continue to boil for 5 minutes, until the sherry has reduced. Add remaining ingredients and reduce to medium-low heat, stirring frequently, another 3-5 minutes, until desired thickness is reached.
To serve, cut Beef Wellington into 3/4-1” slices and drizzle with sauce.