Another Make-Ahead Wonder: Mini Beef Wellingtons
Making food ahead of time and freezing it can be a valuable labour saver, especially when you’re running low on energy after a hard day at work. It can help to diversify the diets of you and family members by offering different options on short notice. Additionally, seasonally abundant foods tend to fluctuate in price over the course of a year, making some dishes far more cost-effective at certain times than at others. When taken together with the fact that there are a number of labour-intensive dishes that take well to freezing and reheating, making some meal components ahead of schedule just makes sense.
Food With History
The origins of Beef Wellington are indistinct, but at least the particular name for this dish is though to be connected with Arthur Wellesley. The first Duke of Wellington, who is famed for defeating Napoleon at Waterloo, was a notoriously picky eater. It’s been said that his cooks—chefs in their own right—despaired of preparing dishes to tempt his fickle appetite, and would often resign their positions in frustration.
Beef Wellington is a beef eye-fillet wrapped in pastry, often stuffed with mushrooms, shallots, breadcrumbs, and rich goose liver pate. Another origin story for this dish posits that its name comes from the fact that, when done, it looks like a highly polished Wellington or riding boot. It’s said that, after first tasting the dish, the Duke requested this be served at any dinner party he hosted. If you’ve ever had a properly prepared Beef Wellington, you know this wasn’t mere vanity speaking, but high praise from a finicky eater.
Beef Wellington in Miniature
Perhaps this adaptation of the classic dish is highly appropriate as a miniature, since it originates from an era and a culture where it was popular to carry miniature portraits and have miniature lap dogs. You can make these for a dinner party, but if you’re not going to freeze them, be sure to chill them for at least an hour—preferably overnight–before baking them. Twenty-five minutes for a nice medium rare is ideal.
- 2 x 340 gram packets of puff pastry
- 1 beef eye-fillet, trimmed and cut in half crosswise
- 2 tablespoons canola or unflavoured cooking oil
- Freshly cracked black pepper and salt
- 1 large egg
- 283 grams mousse pate
- 1 large egg (just prior to baking)
First, you need to buy your eye-fillet from your online butcher and then season your beef with salt and pepper. Then, in a large skillet on high heat, using one tablespoon of oil, brown one half of the beef, turning constantly for two to three minutes. Repeat this process with the other half of your beef, then allow both to cool for at least 40 minutes. Cut each half into four equal pieces.
Roll out one sheet of the puff pastry to just over 16 by 12 inches. You’ll want to wait to do this until you’re nearly ready to assemble the Wellingtons, since the warmer puff pastry is, the more difficult it is to work with. Trim the edges and cut into four eight by six inch squares. Next, place one piece of beef on each square, with the cut side on the pastry. Top each piece of meat with two and a half ounces of the patte, and spread it evenly.
Beat one of your eggs and brush it over the edges of the pastry, folding up the corners and encasing the filling. Gently press the edges to seal in the beef and pate. You may crimp them with the tines of a fork if you so desire. Repeat this process with all your pastry squares. Then, making sure they’re seam-side up, wrap each well in plastic wrap and then foil. This creates a barrier against freezer burn. They’ll keep quite nicely for up to two weeks.
When You’re Ready to Bake
Preheat your oven to 220 degrees C. Arrange your miniature Wellingtons on a baking sheet that has been line with parchment. Beat a large egg and brush it over the top of the frozen pastries. Bake these for about 35 minutes for a lovely medium rare. Remove the pastries and allow them to rest for at least ten minutes before serving.
Suggestions for Serving
You can pair your mini Wellingtons with roasted new potatoes or creamy mashed potatoes, sautéed asparagus with lemon and garlic butter, and mushrooms and shallots in a cognac sauce.
Mini Beef Wellingtons make an excellent main course for a relaxed dinner party, because they are at once elegant and informal. However, they can just as easily be the main course for a weekday lunch or a late supper between work projects. The beauty of these is that they are not restricted to a formal occasion, like their full-size counterparts. They are individually frozen, so whether you need eight, five, or two, they’re ready for the oven.