Question for the chefs: Beef Wellington

For the second year in a row, I’m going to make Beef Wellington for Christmas dinner. Last year, it was delicious. Puff pastry from scratch, pate, duxelles… YUM! I’m using the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, if anyone’s interested.

The only problem is that the damn thing fell apart when we cut it. It looked like a perfect crusty lovely thing when it baked. However, the cuts themselves looked like a mess. Instead of the crust nicely surrounding each cut of beef, it fell off the meat into flaky crumbs. Tasted divine, but looked like crap.

Any suggestions on how to get my pastry to ‘stick’ to the meat?

My guess is that you need a better knife. If you tried to carve with a chef’s knife, that would almost certainly destroy the crust. Something long and really thin and really sharp. I have what’s called a ham slicer; it’s 12’’ and it’s got these little divots on the sides that prevent a vacuum being created between the meat and the knife. Go very slowly and delicately, and use your other hand to cradle the slice so it doesn’t sag and fall apart.

Hmmm… I was using a non-serrated bread knife to cut it. Basically about a 10" straight blade, fairly sharp.

I was kind of thinking of buying an electric knife to do this kind of carving. I have lots o’ knives, but nothing like the ham slicer you describe.

And if your recipe calls for letting it sit after it comes out of the oven, don’t be tempted to skip that part.

I should also echo what essvee recommends - a knife that it won’t adhere to. A ham slicer is probably ideal.

Jane & Michael Stern’s AMERICAN GOURMET (Harper, 1991) specifies using a very sharp, serrated knife to cut slices one inch thick, “trying to keep the crust intact,” which sounds like they’re dubious about the prospect.

Oh goodie! An excuse to buy a new knife. Thanks, all, for the advice! <rifles through the Henkels catalog>

I’ve made it twice. Now, I adore cooking, I truly do. NOTHING is worth massaging butter under running ice water to make Filo dough. So, I cheated in two areas. I bought Pepperidge Farms filo dough sheets, and I bought Bearnaise Sauce Mix. ( Okay, so shoot me now ).

I encountered this problem BOTH times. The mushrooms shed SO much water that as they cook down some more within the Wellington, they make the bottom of the arrangement soggy.

Here is my suggestion. I’ve not tried it yet, BUT I am going to do it this way the next time I’m in the mood to make this dish. I will not make an immense football-sized lump of beef. Instead, I’ll slice medallions from a cut. I’ll make individual servings. THAT way, the cook time is cut way down, and you don’t have to slice it- each person has their own beef. I figured I’d cut wide strips of filo, and fold two around the beef at right angles. Each presentation would be very appealing this way.

Just a thought. Man, I’m hungry now. :smiley:


Filo? I use puff pastry. Or is that what you meant?

I made my own puff pastry last year. No massaging of butter under ice water. I don’t remember it being particularly difficult.

Hmmm… soggy mushrooms. Don’t remember those, either. IIRC, it all was great, except for the crust coming off the slices.

Press the mushrooms with some paper towels after you cook them to get rid of excess fluid. For the cutting part, use a sharp serrated knife and use very light pressure. Let the knife do the work of sawing through the crust.

I also prefer now to make individual ones. Everyone gets more of the pastry, and all of the juices. Also fun, and very pretty, is to assemble all of the cooked ingredients in pre-made puff pastry cups.

My apologies you are correct, it was Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Dough. It comes in long thin rectangular boxes. My bad.

Okay, so I suffer from limp mushrooms. Doesn’t make me a bad chef. Just a flaccid one !! :smiley:

Turbo, my Mom used those pastry cups to make Chicken A La King as a child. ( When I WAS a child, not when SHE was a child. -grin- ). It’s a neat thought to use it, but you have to admit- the puff pastry dough wrapped totally around does indeed deliver that ’ Wellington Au Beuf ’ look that we all know and love.

Damn, now I wanna go and make some !

Quite right toon. It’s not only the look of the individual wrapped ones but the pastry itself. The pastry is what makes the whole thing. Just a slice from a whole wellington isn’t quite enough pastry. The cups are good for appetizers though. You can make them look really cool.

One addition I use in wellingtons is camembert cheese, or brie if the camembert isn’t ripe enough. Layer it on about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick between the meat and the mushrooms. When it’s done, the mushrooms are a little more earthier and very creamy. It adds another layer of incredible depth and flavor to it all.

Man, you’re good.


<—bowing deeply.