Beef Wellington is a dish prepared from a beef filet tenderloin roast coated with *pâté (often *pâté de foie gras) or in some recipes wrapped in cured ham, and *duxelles, which is finally wrapped with a puff pastry sheet and baked. Some recipes also call for a crêpe to be also wrapped around the tenderloin after the roast has been coated in the pâté and duxelles mixture. This is done to help prevent the outer pastry from becoming soggy.
When making a beef Wellington the whole tenderloin is usually wrapped, baked, and then sliced for serving. But in some cases the roast may be sliced before being wrapped and baked as to make neat individual portions. A large variety of dry rub marinades may also be used to enhance the flavor of your beef Wellington including but not limited to; curry, ginger, pepper, salt, brown sugar, or even coffee. Experiment with different rubs to get the flavor you desire.
The origin of this dish’s name is still quite unclear. There are a few theories that say beef Wellington was named after Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington. There are even some theories that take this myth to the next level saying that this was due to the Dukes love of a dish of beef, truffles, Madeira wine, and pâté baked in a pastry. There is no real evidence supporting this myth. Also in addition to this lack of evidence connecting beef Wellington to the famous Duke, the first actual known recipe to have this name came about in a 1966 cookbook. If it were indeed named after the Duke there should have been recipes dating into the 1800’s. Some say the dish was not named after Arthur Wellesley at all but rather that the finished dish bared a resemblance to the brown shiny military boots named after him. One other theory simply states that a patriotic chef wanted to give an English name to a variation of the French dish filet de bœuf en croûte during the Napoleonic Wars.
The term “Wellington” may occasionally be used to informally describe other pastry wrapped meat dishes; commonly there are variations of a sausage, lamb, and even a salmon Wellington. Assuredly these are not the only types of meat that could have this name attached to it. Try making your own with pork tenderloin or maybe use a nice halibut steak, or stick to the classic beef Wellington recipe. Whatever way you decide to do it be assured that you will be partaking in a delicious meal with as much myth and history as it has flavor.
*Duxelles is a mixture of finely minced mushrooms, onions, shallots, and herbs sautéed in butter, reduced to a paste. Cream may be used as well. Commonly used in stuffing, sauce, or as a garnish. It could also be used as the filling of a tart or hand pie.
* Pâté is a mixture of meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste commonly with herbs and vegetables used in French cuisine.
* Pâté de foie gras (fwa:’gra) is a pâté made from the fattened liver of a duck or goose. It’s flavor is described as rich, delicate, and buttery.