The History of Beef Wellington

The Battle of Waterloo

I picked the music Overture of 1812 by Tchaikovsky because if you're going to make this, you're going to need something in the background while you are slaving away. It's a bear of a recipe, but the best of the best. Good luck.

Arthur Wellesley
1769 – 1852. Duke of Wellington, English army commander, PM

A national hero for defeating Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, Arthur Wellesley was made the first Duke of Wellington. He loved a dish of beef, mushrooms, truffles, Madeira wine, and pâtécooked in pastry, which has been named in his honor.


The Duke of Wellington, who won the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, was quite indifferent to food, so much so that his cooks often gave notice, despairing of using their culinary talents in his household. In spite of this, his name has been given to a fillet of beef, wrapped in puff pasty, so called perhaps because in its larger version the finished product looks like a highly polished riding or Wellington boot.

Beef Wellington: This tenderloin of beef in puffed pastry was the favorite of the late President Richard Nixon and was originally created to honor the Duke of Wellington. The Duke is said to have requested that this beef dish be served at any dinner that he might be hosting. While his proud English chef dubbed the preparation, "Wellington Steak," his Gaelic counterpart across the Channel, still smarting from Napoleon's defeat, simply called the it, "Filet de Boeuf en Cro-te." Beef Wellington is a combination of seared filet of beef tenderloin done in either a large cut or in individual servings. The beef is seared, then topped with either Foie Gras‚ and/or Duxelles (a mince of mushrooms blended with additional flavoring ingredients), wrapped in puffed pastry and finished in the oven. As with Chateaubriand, the noble Wellington is accompanied by one or two sauces, usually from the list of Sauces Bearnaise, Colbert, Madeira, Perigourdine or Chateaubriand

Actually, Waterloo wasn't the battlefield; it was just the town from which Wellington sent the dispatch announcing his victory. Nevertheless, if you are a history buff you will enjoy a visit to the area. And if you've been working out on your StairMaster, you can try the 226 steps to the top of the Butte du Lion for a sweeping view.

Beef Wellington

Beef Marinade
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sliced onions
1/2 cup carrots
1/2 cup celery
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon sage
1 bay leaf
3 allspice berries or cloves
6 peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dry white vermouth
1/3 cup cognac or brandy

Mushroom Duxelles
2 lbs mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons shallots, minced
1/2 cup dry madeira wine
4-5 tablespoons mousse type pate or foie gras
4 (8 ounce) filet of beef
4 slices prosciutto, thin
2 sheets puff pastry

Madeira Sauce
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup madeira wine

Place all marinade ingredients (except salt, vermouth and cognac) in a small saucepan.

Cook slowly until vegetables are tender.

Remove from heat and let cool.

Season filets with salt; place in ziplock bag; add marinade mixture; pour on the wine and cognac.

Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours.

Remove from marinade.

Pat dry.

Heat 1 T oil in a heavy duty saute pan over high heat.

Add filet and sear briefly on all sides.

Return to refrigerator until ready to assemble the Wellingtons.

Reserve marinade for sauce.

Mince mushrooms in food processor until very small.

In the corner of a clean kitchen towel, twist the mushrooms a handful at a time to extract as much of the mushroom juices as possible.

I usually dampen the towel first so it won't absorb the juices of the mushrooms.

Reserve the juices for the sauce.

Saute mushrooms and shallots in butter 7 or 8 minutes or so until the mushroom pieces separate from each other and begin to look dry.

Add the madeira and boil until liquid has evaporated.

Season to taste and stir in the pate or foie gras.

Simmer marinade ingredients and mushroom juices with 2 cups beef broth and 1 T tomato paste for 1 hour or so until reduced to 2 cups.

Degrease, season and thicken with 2 Tbs. cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup Madeira.

All of these steps can be prepared well in advance and even frozen in separate containers.

Simply thaw everything before proceeding.

I usually get two Wellingtons out of each sheet of puff pastry.

It depends on the size of the steaks.

Roll out each sheet a little to accomodate the size of the filet.

Cut sheet in half.

Lay one sheet of Prosciutto on each half.

Place a spoonful of mushrooms on top; place a filet on top of mushrooms; spoon a little more mushrooms on top of filet; wrap filet in pastry.

Pinch to seal.

If you have any pastry left over, be creative and decorate the Wellingtons to fit the occasion.

Place on parchment lined cookie sheet.

Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or until ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 375^F.

Egg wash the tops of the Wellingtons.

Bake until golden brown.

About 25 minutes.

Use an instant read thermometer to insure that the meat is done to your liking.

If Wellingtons start to brown too much before the meat is ready, cover with foil and cook until it is done.

Serve with the Madeira sauce spooned on top.

Good luck!!!!



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