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Dorothy Dean presents: Beef Wellington

Switch things up for Christmas dinner with this Beef Wellington from Audrey Alfaro. (Audrey Alfaro)
Switch things up for Christmas dinner with this Beef Wellington from Audrey Alfaro. (Audrey Alfaro)

This Christmas dinner, I invite you to step away from the traditional ham, prime rib or turkey with two words: Beef Wellington.

Maybe you’ve heard of it?

While popular in the 1960s – it was a favorite at the White House with the Kennedy’s and President Nixon – it’s rarely found on restaurant menus or dinner tables nowadays.

And that surprises me considering how exceptionally delicious it is.

Tender and juicy perfectly pink beef encased in a rich, savory mushroom mixture, rolled in prosciutto and wrapped in crisp, golden puff pastry – yes, please!

The description alone has me drooling, and the presentation is in a class on its own.

And, like most classy dishes, it may come off as a bit too complicated and have you questioning your culinary skills.

But let me tell you something.

It’s not.

It’s basically prepping and assembling four components. (See, you got this.)

The first: the beef. It’s tied, seasoned and left to come to room temp before being quickly pan seared to form a dark crust.

While that’s resting, you start component number two: the duxelles. Yeah, I thought the same thing, “What’s that?” It’s just the fancy French word for minced mushrooms cooked down until dry. While traditionally mixed with shallots and herbs, I add garlic, spinach and Gorgonzola to mine. I love the combination of flavors, and I’m obsessed with pairing steak with cheese.

While that’s cooling, let’s move on to component three: the prosciutto. No cooking required here. Just some plastic wrap and the fine skill of shingling prosciutto into the shape of a rectangle. Easy, right? Now spread your cooled mushroom mixture – um, excuse me – duxelles, in an even layer over the prosciutto and place on your rested, untied, tenderloin. Using the plastic wrap, roll tightly into a log, seal the edges and chill for 30 minutes.

And just like that, we’re at the final component: the puff pastry. It’s rolled out in to the shape of a rectangle and transferred on to a sheet of plastic wrap. After a brush of egg wash, the prosciutto wrapped beef is placed on, and once again, rolled tightly into a log and chilled.

Then it’s scored, decorated and brushed with egg wash before the crust is baked to a golden brown and beef is cooked to a juicy medium-rare.

(See, chef, that wasn’t complicated at all.)

Also, it can be prepared in advance. After wrapping it in the pastry, it can be covered and refrigerated for up to two days, or frozen for up to a month. (If this doesn’t seal the deal for you, I don’t know what will.)

To have your impressive centerpiece prepped and oven ready – giving you more time to enjoy the occasion and mingle with family and guests – that’s a total win in my books.

Just a few of you this Christmas? Make individual Wellingtons using tenderloin steaks. Just be sure to adjust your cooking time.

And creamy Béarnaise sauce or au jus are both tasty options to accompany your new holiday tradition.

Beef Wellington

From Audrey Alfaro

2 1/2- to 3-pound center-cut beef tenderloin

Kosher salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 pound cremini mushrooms, minced

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 (10-ounce) package chopped spinach

Garlic powder, to taste

1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

3 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced

1 sheet puff pastry

2 egg yolks, beaten with 1 tbsp water and a pinch of salt

Using butcher’s or cotton twine, tie tenderloin at 1-inch intervals so it holds its cylindrical shape while cooking. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper and let come to room temperature.

Add oil to a large pan over high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the tenderloin and cook until a dark brown crust forms on all sides, including ends, about 3 minutes per side.

Remove the tenderloin from the pan and transfer to a wire rack and remove ties. Set aside to let meat rest.

Defrost the spinach in the microwave according to package directions. Place in a cheesecloth or kitchen towel and wring it of excess moisture as best you can and set aside.

In the same pan used to brown the tenderloin add the butter, mushrooms, and minced garlic and cook over medium-high heat until softened. Add in the spinach and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid evaporates and the mushroom mixture is completely dry, about 25 to 30 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.

Remove mixture from the pan and let cool completely. Once cool, stir in Gorgonzola and set aside.

On a clean work surface, lay out two overlapping sheets of plastic wrap that are twice the length and width of the tenderloin. Lay strips of prosciutto, slightly overlapping, on the plastic in the shape of a rectangle, large enough to cover the tenderloin. Spread the mushroom mixture in an even layer over the prosciutto.

Place the beef filet in the middle, using the plastic wrap, roll the mushrooms and ham over the filet tightly, to get a nice, evenly thick log. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap to secure and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Place puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle large enough to envelop beef.

Transfer pastry onto a new layer of plastic wrap and brush with egg wash. Remove prosciutto-wrapped beef from the plastic wrap, then set the beef in the center of the puff pastry, and roll it tightly in the puff pastry. Cut off any extra pastry, making sure there is no overlap. Crimp the edges, using egg wash to help you seal the edges and sides.

Wrap the puff pastry in the plastic wrap, tying the ends together to form a log shape. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Place the beef Wellington on a greased, parchment paper-lined baking sheet, seam side down. Using a fork, lightly score a decorative design onto the surface of the puff pastry. Decorate with additional pastry (optional) and brush with egg wash.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until the puff pastry is a dark golden brown and the internal temperature of the beef is between 125 to 130 degrees for medium-rare. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

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