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Classic Beef Wellington

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Serves 8

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 108

If Britain has a holiday culinary showstopper; it's got to be beef Wellington. This triumphant marriage of beef tenderloin, sautéed mushrooms, and rich chicken liver pâté (or truffles and pâté de foie gras, if you want to break the bank), rolled first in tender crêpes and then in buttery puff pastry, makes a grand centerpiece. Carved at the table and paired with a classic Madeira sauce, it's a delicious and decadent meal.

Watch a video to learn how to make and assemble Classic Beef Wellington step-by-step and visit the Guide to Christmas Dinner for more holiday-worthy recipes, menu planning tools, and how-to videos.

For the duxelles
  • 1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1-1/2 cups finely chopped portobello mushrooms (from 4 large caps; remove the stems and gills before chopping, preferably in a food processor)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
For the Madeira sauce
  • 6 cups beef stock, homemade or store-bought
  • 1 cup Madeira
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz. (2 Tbs.) cold unsalted butter, diced
For the crêpes
  • 2-1/4 oz. (1/2 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter
For assembly
  • 3 lb. center-cut beef tenderloin, trimmed, side muscle removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 2/3 cup chicken liver pâté, homemade or store-bought
  • 1 lb. puff pastry, homemade or store-bought, thawed overnight in the refrigerator if frozen
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. unsalted butter, softened
Make the duxelles

Heat the butter and oil in a 10-inch skillet over low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, stir well, and raise the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have cooked down to a thick, almost black mixture, about 15 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Stir in the parsley; then transfer to a small bowl and cool completely. (The duxelles can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)

Begin the Madeira sauce

Bring 6 cups of the stock to a boil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat and boil until reduced to 2 cups, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the Madeira and continue boiling until the liquid is again reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (The sauce can be prepared to this point up to 1 day ahead. Finish the sauce just before serving the Wellington.)

Make the crêpes

In a large bowl, whisk the flour and salt. Make a well in the center, break in the eggs, and add 1/4 cup of the milk. Gently whisk the eggs and milk, gradually incorporating the flour. Slowly whisk in the remaining milk to make a smooth batter. (The batter can be covered and set aside for up to an hour at this point.)

Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Swirl the pan to coat with the butter; pour the excess butter out into a small bowl. Whisk 1 Tbs. of the melted butter into the batter. Reserve the rest for greasing the pan between crêpes. Increase the heat to medium high and pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the skillet. Swirl so the batter thinly and evenly coats the base of the pan.

Cook until the crêpe is spotted with brown on the underside, about 1 minute, then flip and cook the other side until lightly browned, 30 seconds to 1 minute more. Repeat with the remaining batter, greasing the pan off the heat as necessary. Transfer the crêpes to a plate, separating them with sheets of parchment, and cool. You’ll need 4 crêpes.

Assemble and bake the Wellington

Remove the beef from the refrigerator about an hour ahead so it has time to lose its chill. Pat the beef dry and season all over with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat until very hot. Sear the beef until it is evenly browned all over (don’t worry about the ends), 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the beef to a baking sheet and cool.

In a medium bowl, mash the pâté and the duxelles with a fork until they form a soft paste.

Lay 4 crêpes on a clean work surface, overlapping them just enough to give you a 13x13-inch roughly square surface. Dot the pâté mixture over the crêpes, then use an offset spatula to spread it evenly across the crêpes’ surface.

Place the tenderloin in the center of the crêpes and carefully wrap them around the filet, pressing and molding them into place. Trim off any excess crêpe at the ends.

If using store-bought puff pastry that’s packaged as 2 sheets, fuse the sheets together by slightly overlapping them and lightly rolling over the seam until adhered.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a 13x16-inch rectangle (for store-bought puff, roll in the direction of the seam).

Transfer the wrapped beef to the center of the pastry and tuck any crêpes that have come loose back into place. Bring the pastry up around the beef, smoothing out any air pockets. Brush some of the beaten egg along the bottom edge of the seam and then press gently to seal; trim off any excess. Seal the pastry similarly at the ends.

Lightly grease a large baking sheet with the butter. Lift the Wellington onto the sheet, seam side down. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 3 hours. (If refrigerating longer than 1 hour, let the Wellington sit at room temperature for 1 hour before baking.)

At least 20 minutes before baking, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 475°F.

Brush the Wellington with the remaining beaten egg. Using a sharp knife, score the surface of the pastry with diagonal lines, being careful not to cut all the way through the pastry. Put the Wellington in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 425°F. Roast for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400°F and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the Wellington registers 135°F for medium rare, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a carving board and let the Wellington rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, finish the sauce: Heat the sauce in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. When it begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time. Do not allow it to boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thickly slice the Wellington and serve it with the sauce.

Make Ahead Tips

There are several components to a Beef Wellington, but you don’t have to make them all in one day. Here’s how to spread out the work:

2 days (or up to 2 months) ahead: Make and chill (or freeze) the beef stock, duxelles, and puff pastry.

1 day ahead: Begin the Madeira sauce. Make the crêpes. Defrost the beef stock, duxelles, and puff pastry, if necessary.

Up to 5 hours ahead: Let the beef sit out at room temperature for 1 hour before searing.

Up to 4 hours ahead: Sear the beef; assemble and chill the Wellington.

Up to 1-1/2 hours ahead: Let the Wellington sit out at room temperature before baking.

Up to 1 hour ahead: Bake the Wellington and let it rest before carving.

Before serving: Finish the Madeira sauce.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 850; Fat (g): fat g 50; Fat Calories (kcal): 450; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 20; Protein (g): protein g 48; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 20; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 34; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 5; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 900; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 290; Fiber (g): fiber g 2;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I made this recipe on 3 occasions. I modified the crepe recipe. As described the batter is very thick. I used 3 eggs, 1.5c milk and 1/4 c water. I also squeezed the duxele with a piece of cheese cloth to extract as much liquid as possible. In any case this is a good receipe for such meal.

Fabulous! Has become our traditional Christmas dinner. Third year now!

I made this Wellington for the first time on January 1, 2013 and according to my sister Michèle it was the best she ever had. I have to say we did add a layer of duck liver and some truffles on top before closing the crepes. I also did it again for friends but that time the meat was tougher and shrunken. I believe that the difference was the first time and stop cooking at 125⁰F and the second time I stop at the prescribe temperature of 135⁰F. The temperature after resting was over 140⁰F. This is the temperature were the meat starts to lose a lot of liquid and shrinkage is substantial.

I made this over 3 days following the suggested timeline more or less. (I bought the puff pastry though). Everything turned out amazing, including the chicken pate. (Good suggestion below to not have someone watch the initial process!). The temperatures, times, processes outlined were all PERFECT. I love this magazine because I know I can 100% rely on the results...the only errors are my own. (Ie take the advice NOT to cut through the pastry when making slits in the top, otherwise the pastry will separate when you make slices- instead of circles around the beef, you will get a broken c shape from severing it!). It's a showstopper and totally worth the effort/time/cost if you are so inclined!

Holy Cow! Best thing I have ever made! I love to cook, and this was a fun challenge to tackle with a great outcome! Followed the recipe exactly and the steak turned out nice and rare (my cut was a bit over 3 lbs), covered in a rich pate and a buttery, light pastry. I loved the addition of the crepes. When eating it you almost can't imagine dipping it in the sauce, but when you do a whole new level of flavor is achieved! This is consuming, both in time and in your pocket book, but I assure you, it is worth both! If you are reading this recipe, you are ready to take on, "The Wellington"!

Wow....I am not a cook but followed this recipe to a T. It is a lot of work but you will be amazed at the end result. Came out exactly like the pictures. Awesome flavors...

Made this for New Year's Eve dinner party and everyone loved it. Started two days ahead with the stock, and the pate and duxelles the day before. The pate recipe was a little different (not something you want people to watch you make - ick) but turned out very good. The crepes were an unusual step but a great idea to keep the pastry from getting soggy. The end result, you really didn't notice they were there. The step-by-step instructions made it a breeze to put together. Not only was it delicious it was a culinary work of art--it looked beautiful! Thanks Fine Cooking for making me look like a pro!

Started a day in advance and made the pate, duxelles, madeira sauce sans buerre, and crepes. I had never made crepes, so it took me two tries to get them right--my first batch was way too thick--my fault, not the recipe. I was very pleased that all of the suggested timings seemed spot on. At the suggested oven time for the beef, the probe thermometer read 120F. I gave it a bit more time to reach 130F as I didn't want the hassle of people claiming the meat was raw. The meat was a very nice rare medium rare. No one wanted to try the pate with the hors d'oeuvres, so when I was asked what was around the meat, I just said sauteed mushrooms. Seems folks like liver far more than they know. The video was extremely helpful. Fine Cooking made this classic easy to achieve. The Beef Wellington was a resounding success with the diners.

Made it for lunch on Christmas day. My beef ended up cooked about medium to medium well, which was fine for most of the people at the party but I think next time I will reduce the temperature a little more aggressively after the pastry has time to puff up so that it will cook a little more slowly and be closer to medium rare. Very very well received and an excellent flavor combination. The sauce was a little thin so next time I think I'll thicken it with flour or corn starch.

I made this for Christmas Eve dinner. Took me three days to make all the components from scratch. I followed the recipe very closely and my beef was overcooked. Really irritating. We like rare to medium rare but mine was well done. If I do this again, I would definitely adjust the cooking time or perhaps follow the advice about freezing the meat and putting it directly into the oven. It tasted wonderful but it was a bit disappointing in the end.

I made this for Christmas dinner. I made it ahead of time (about three weeks ago) and froze it. It tasted perfect! To cook the frozen Wellington, heat oven to 425 degrees. Take the Wellington from the freezer and put into an oven. Do not thaw it! Cook for 45 minutes and then turn the oven down to 400 and cook another 30 min (depending on how you liked your meat cooked). We like our meat very rare and took it out of the oven at 125 degrees but it ended up being medium rare. Next time I will take it out at 110 degrees. Everyone loved it and I will make it again.

We made this for Christmas Eve dinner. It was not complicated to make and assemble. The meal was delicious. We will definitely be doing this again.

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