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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Beef Wellington with Green Peppercorn Sauce

If you've never had Beef Wellington, you are absolutely in for a treat!  This amazing recipe is for a beef tenderloin filet that has been seasoned and seared, covered with wild mushroom duxelles* and prosciutto, and all wrapped up and baked inside a puff pastry.  Can you get more decadent than that?  Well, yes.  Then you serve it with this green peppercorn sauce that is creamy and beefy with a hint of brandy and the ever so slight bite of the peppercorns.   
My husband and I had the rare weekend with no kids around... so it was a treat to plan something special and spend the evening cooking together.  Please don't be intimidated by any perceived technical difficulty here.  While this is a multi-step dish that does honestly take some time, absolutely none of the steps are difficult at all.  That said, you could certainly prepare the dish ahead of time and have it refrigerated until you are ready for it to go into the oven.

Most recipes call for a large beef tenderloin (maybe 3 pounds).  If you are making this for a crowd, I would certainly seek one out; however for just the two of us, I knew that would be way too much meat.  Also, it is MUCH easier for most people to find a couple of beautiful 6-8 oz filets from your local grocer than seeking out a whole 3 pound tenderloin.  
According the Julia Child, the most frequent issues with this dish seem to be overcooked meat and soggy pastry.  She described it as a "damply dumpling under its handsome exterior."  You can guard against overcooking by inserting a digital thermometer into one of the filets during the baking process. The one I have allows me to set a target temperature (125 F) and there is an alarm that goes off when it reaches that temp. That is about as fool proof as you are going to get, folks!! :) As far as the soggy pastry... the step where you wrap the beef and duxelles tightly with the prosciutto will help hold in the juices to prevent soggy pastry.  This is my version of Tyler Florence's Ultimate Beef Wellington.  Mmmmm.


Click for Printable Recipe 


For the Duxelles:

  • 1 package (4-8 oz?) wild mushroom medley 
  • 2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Beef: 

  • 2 nice sized (6-8 oz) beef filet mignons, trimmed   
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 thin slices prosciutto
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Flour, for rolling out puff pastry
  • 1 pound puff pastry, thawed if using frozen
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • Minced chives, for garnish
Green Peppercorn Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1 box beef stock
  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 Tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1/2 cup green peppercorns in brine, drained


Step-by-Step Method - 

Start with the Duxelles -
Add garlic cloves, shallots, fresh thyme, and wild mushroom medley to food processor.
Pulse until you get small-medium chop.
Add butter and olive oil to a heavy skillet.
When the butter is really hot, add the mushroom paste. 
Sautee 8-10 minutes until almost all the liquid is absorbed.  Season with a small amount of salt and pepper.  Remove from heat to a small bowl and allow to cool.
Now move on to the beef filets -
Allow beef filets to come to room temperature.  
Notice how large these are?  Each one of them is enough to serve two adults.  You can make them like this and share one, or you can cut in half and wrap each one separately for individual servings.  We have done it each way.  That's why you will see different sizes on the photos.
Apply a small amount of EVOO to the meat.
Season the beef with coarse salt and pepper.  Careful with the amount of salt - the prosciutto has a lot in it, and the reduced sauce will also add quite a bit.
Add a little olive oil to the same pan you used for the mushrooms and add the beef filets when the pan gets really hot.  
Wow.  You can see my fingerprints on the ends of the beef.  That is how tender that meat is!

Sear the meat on all sides, even the ends.  Then turn off the heat.
Prepare the prosciutto slices like a shingles, slightly overlapping, set on plastic wrap.  Tip - buy more prosciutto than you think you will need.  The amount I bought did not quite make it all the way around the beef filets.
Apply the cooled duxelle in a layer on the prosciutto with a flexible rubber spatula.
Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.
Smear the Dijon mustard over the beef filets.
Set the beef on the duxelle.
Using the plastic wrap to help you, roll up the beef tightly into the prosciutto.
Make a log and wrap the ends tightly.
Place wrapped beef in the refrigerator for 30 minutes so everything will set and cool.  Now go preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. 
Beat eggs for egg wash and set aside.
Now, while meat is in the refrigerator, start on the green peppercorn sauce -

Use the same skillet because we want to pick up all those yummy flavors from the mushrooms and the beef for a really flavorful sauce. Add some EVOO to the skillet.  Add in sliced shallots, garlic, thyme.
Saute a few minutes until everything is fragrant and soft.
De-glaze with the brandy.  You can turn off the heat and flambe it if you would like to.  That's just not something I want to take responsibility for.  But either way, the alcohol will cook out of this and you will be left with the subtle smoky sweetness from the brandy in the final sauce.
Add in the beef broth.  You may also choose to use a low sodium version of broth.  After it reduces and concentrates, it can become a bit salty.
Allow to reduce by half.  So crank up the heat!
Set out the thawed puff pastry on floured surface.
Roll out the pastry to 1/4 inch thickness.
The sauce is really boiling good now. 
Now we are ready to start assembly -
After the 30 minutes, remove the beef "logs" from the refrigerator.  Remove plastic wrap.
Set the beef in the pastry, and roll it up.  You can just cut off the excess and use pieces of it to decorate the top if you'd like.
"Glue" the ends together with the egg wash.
Make sure the seams are tight with the egg wash as well.  We will put the seams under the bottom.
Cover the whole top with the egg wash, sprinkle with coarse salt, black pepper, and thyme leaves.  Cut a few slits in the top to allow the steam to escape during the baking.  Now pop these guys into the oven.
See bottom of page for updated, smaller portions.

While the meat is baking, turn back to the sauce...
Once the broth for the sauce has reduced by half, it's time to strain the solids out.  We wanted all those flavors infused, but in the end.. we want a smooth sauce.  Discard the solids, then return the sauce to the pan.
Now to the clear sauce, add in the heavy cream. Make sure you turn the heat down now.  If you add that cream in while boiling, it will curdle.  You have to bring it up to temp more slowly.
Add in the grainy mustard.  Allow to cook down and reduce by half again. 
Once reduced (you can see the original level on the sides of the pan), turn off the heat and then add in the drained peppercorns.
Remove the wellingtons from the oven and allow to rest 10 minutes.  Pretty, aren't they? 
Now you are ready to slice into them..
Yum!  Now don't go forgetting about the sauce.  We actually ended up putting the sauce into small ramekins and serving it on the side to dip the meat into.  Delicious!

Updated portions -  These are filets that have been cut in half (and look how big they still are)!  For these, I cut the pastry into two sections.  A smaller one on the bottom, about 1/2 inch larger than the outline of the meat, and then a larger one to drape over the top.  I "glued" them together with an eggwash, then crimped the edges with a fork.  You will notice that I also elevated them on a cooling rack set into my baking sheet so the hot air could circulate under the bottoms.  This worked well.

Just a word of caution to you - these smaller ones will be done in less time than the larger filet "logs" that are shown in the original portion of the post.   Keep an eye on your thermometer.  You will definitely want to cover them with aluminum foil after the pastry is browned.



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Food Nerd Notes:
The Origin of this dish seems to be quite muddled.  Various cultures seem to lay claim to it.  The French had a dish called "filet de boeuf en croûte" which seems pretty similar.  But Wellington is an English name.  Some sources say it was named after the guy (the Duke of Wellington) who defeated Napolean.  He apparently was NOT a foodie, and his chefs kept leaving his employment as he had no appreciation for their food... UNTIL one of the chefs made this dish for him.  So I guess this dish finally won him over with its decadence (as originally the beef would have been smothered in pate before being wrapped in the pastry). 
Duxelles is a finely chopped (minced) mixture of mushrooms, onions, shallots and herbs sauteed in butter, and reduced to a paste (sometimes cream is used, as well). It is a basic preparation used in stuffings and sauces (notably, beef Wellington) or as a garnish. Duxelles can also be filled into a pocket of raw pastry and baked as a savory tart (similar to a hand-held pie).  Duxelles is made with any cultivated or wild mushroom, depending on the recipe. Duxelles made with wild porcini mushrooms will be much stronger flavored than that made with white or brown mushrooms. Fresh mushrooms are usually used; however, reconstituted dried varieties are used, as well.  Duxelles is said to have been created by the 17th-century French chef François Pierre La Varenne (1615–1678) and to have been named after his employer, Nicolas Chalon du Blé, marquis d'Uxelles, maréchal de France.

Written Directions

To make the Duxelles -
Add mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add butter and olive oil to a large saute pan and set over medium heat. Add the shallot and mushroom mixture and saute for 8 to 10 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

To prepare the beef -
Drizzle each filet with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and sear all over, including the ends, in a hot, heavy-based skillet lightly coated with olive oil - about 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile set out your prosciutto on a sheet of plastic wrap (plastic needs to be about a foot and a half in length so you can wrap and tie the roast up in it) on top of your cutting board. Shingle the prosciutto so it forms two large rectangles that are big enough to encompass each filet entirely. Using a rubber spatula, cover the prosciutto evenly with a thin layer of duxelles. Season the surface of the duxelles with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. When the beef is seared, remove from heat and smear lightly all over with Dijon mustard. Allow to cool slightly, then roll up in the duxelles covered prosciutto using the plastic wrap to tie it up nice and tight. Tuck in the ends of the prosciutto as you roll to completely encompass the beef. Roll it up tightly in plastic wrap and twist the ends to seal it completely and hold it in a nice log shape. Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to ensure it maintains its shape.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out into two large squares, about 1/4-inch thickness each. Remove beef from refrigerator and cut off plastic. Set the beef in the center of the pastry and fold over the longer sides, brushing with egg wash to seal. Trim ends if necessary then brush with egg wash and fold over to completely seal the beef - saving ends to use as a decoration on top if desired. Top with coarse sea salt. Place the beef seam side down on a baking sheet.

Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash then make a couple of slits in the top of the pastry using the tip of a paring knife - this creates vents that will allow the steam to escape when cooking. Bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on the size of the filets and the temperature you desire) until pastry is golden brown and beef registers 125 degrees F (medium rare) to 135 (medium) on an instant-read thermometer. I covered mine with aluminum foil about 20 minutes into the oven so that the crust wouldn't over-brown. Remove from oven and rest 10 minutes before cutting into thick slices. Remember, the beef will continue to cook (probably and extra 5 degrees) after you remove it from the oven. But if you cut into it right away without allowing it to rest, all of the juices will run out and your meat will be dry. Garnish with minced chives, and serve with Green Peppercorn Sauce. We also had roasted rosemary potatoes and grilled lemon pepper asparagus.

Green Peppercorn Sauce -
Add olive oil to pan after removing beef. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme; saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Next, add brandy and beef stock and reduce by about half. Strain out solids, then add 2 cups cream and mustard. Reduce by half again, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, then shut off heat and add green peppercorns.


  1. Great job .Thanks for sharing such a fantastic recipe with fantastic tutorial.Keep up writing and giving us many more like this one.
    Beef wellington recipe

    1. Thank you, Mahmudul! I hope you will come back and visit again!

  2. Looking forward to making this for Easter, but I'm curious how much of the Beef Wellington may be prepared or made ahead (e.g., day before). Any guidance, Julie??

    1. I'd go ahead and make up the beef in pastry and put in the fridge (airtight) and the sauce separately to just heat up. :)

    2. I'm sorry for the delay, by the way. I've been in the hospital/home after surgery.

  3. Ich habe es mit einem Stück Rinderfilet gekocht das ich im Urlaub im Hotel auf der Seiser Alm gekauft habe...Butterzart und das Rezept ist super... Very Tasty and greetings from Austria

    1. Vielen Dank, Sabine! Ich bin so frof, dass dir das Rezept gefallen hat! Julie


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