Improvisations: No Rolling Pin? No Problem.

Paula Deen Beef Wellington's

Thank you Paula Deen!

A Chorus Line

Best. Musical. Ever.

When I was young, A Chorus Line was my favorite play. After school my best friend and I would stand proudly on the ledge of her large bay window and belt out songs from the show for our audience – her parents. Imagine her very catholic father’s surprise as we belted the lyrics to ‘Tits and Ass’ out of our 12-year old mouths.

In seventh grade, I auditioned for the school play with the character Morales’ song ‘Nothing’. In the song, Morales is learning how to do improvisations ala: ‘now you’re on a bobsled, it’s snowing out and it’s cold…OK Go!

I never hesitated about the words and delighted the director as I sang ‘I felt nothing except the feeling that this bull shit was absurd!

I got a small part and the shock of my peers.

This past weekend I learned even more about improvising.  I was upstate at a friend’s home. We were hosting a dinner party for 12 – in part because another good friend was visiting from San Francisco (please don’t call it ‘Frisco’) and also so that our group could meet the host’s new boyfriend.

At the host’s request, I agreed to make Paula Deen’s Individual Beef Wellingtons in a Sherry Cream Sauce. Even though I’ve made the wellies a dozen times or so, I’ve had to improvise each time for one reason or another.

  • I couldn’t find the right pastry
  • The supermarket had no baby bella mushrooms
  • I was cooking for 4 not 12
  • This oven is too hot or not hot enough

This past weekend presented yet another improv challenge – ‘You’re making wellingtons, you have to roll out pastry dough, you don’t have a rolling pin. OK Go!

Individual Beef Wellingtons in a Sherry Cream Sauce (serves 12)

Note…After making this so many times, I think with the sequence of steps below, I’ve finally found the best way to ensure that dinner is deliciously delivered to the table on time.

Ingredients for the wellies, sauce ingredients to follow:

  • 12     1 1/2 inch thick beef tenderloin fillets
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 4 tbsp butter – it’s Paula Deen after all
  • 2      8 oz packages of baby bella mushrooms minced – Improvisation: I bought 2 10oz pkgs of pre-sliced shrooms at Trader Joe’s – $1.99 each! Math isn’t my thing and I just used most of the mushrooms, not all.
  • 1 large shallot minced – Improvisation: I used 2 smaller ones
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream – again, it’s Paula Deen just go with it
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • Dufour Puff PastryThe recipe calls for 2 packages of 17.3oz frozen puff pastry (aka: Pepperidge Farm) But..Improvisation: I used 4 packages of Dufour Puff Pastry Dough – they carry this at Whole Foods and it’s worth every penny of the $11.99 per package.
  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten – I needed 3

Here are a few things you need to know before you start:

  • minced baby bella mushrooms

    Shrooms & Shallots Mise En Place

    There’s some chopping – mincing of the shallots, mushrooms and chopping of the parsley take time – prepare ahead

  • The meat needs to chill for at least an hour after you sear it – don’t start cooking at 5pm for a 7:30 dinner. Actually, I usually sear the meat and make the filling the night before
  • The puff pastry is frozen – you will need to either thaw by putting in the fridge the night before, or you can take it out :40mins to an hour before you need it, unwrap it and thaw it on the kitchen counter
  • The sauce takes about :40 minutes – you can make the sauce while the meat is chilling and just reheat it when you’re ready to serve.

1. Sprinkle the fillets on both sides with 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper. In a large skillet, melt all 4 tbsp of butter over med/high heat

butter

mmmmm….butter

2. Add the fillets (probably in batches as I’m guessing you might not have a skillet large enough for all 12 at once) and sear on both sides – about 1 1/2 mins each side

Searing the Meat – One side done

3. Put the seared meat on a tray, cover and chill for at least an hour in the fridge

CREATING THE Wellington filling…AKA The YUMMY GOODNESS

4. In the same pan, in the meat juices, add the mushrooms and shallots and cook over med/high heat for 3 minutes stirring occasionally

Baby Bella Mushrooms

Shrooms & Shallots

5. Add the sherry, cream, parsley and 1 tsp of salt. Cook, stirring frequently until all the liquid is absorbed – this takes about 12 – 14 mins

baby bella mushrooms Trader Joe's

The Yummy Goodness

baby bella mushrooms trader joe's beef wellington filling

Yummy Goodness Complete

6. Put the yummy goodness in a bowl, cover and refrigerate

————————————————————————

Use the chilling time to: Make the Sherry Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 1/2 cup of dry sherry
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Sauce 1. In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter….Add the garlic and saute 3 minutes

Sherry cream sauce

Saute The Garlic

Sauce 2. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 2 more minutes to cook out the floury taste

creating a roux

Creating the Roux

Sauce 3. Whisk in the broth and sherry…BTB / RTS (bring to boil, reduce to simmer) and simmer for :10 mins

Adding the beef broth

Beef Broth & Sherry & Boil

Sauce 4. Whisk in the cream and simmer another :20 mins. The sauce is very thick even without the cream…so, you can skip the cream or add a lot less – but, at this point, you’ve already soaked the meat in butter, so why not add the cream?

heavy whipping cream

Just add the cream

Sauce 5: Transfer the sauce to a small sauce pan and cover to keep warm

————————————————————————

Back to the Wellie Assembly

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper

7. Roll out 1 puff pastry sheet to about 12x10inches and cut in half

NOTE: if you don’t have a rolling pin – Improvise…We used a washed and floured Diet Coke can – Oh! The irony!

Diet coke can

Rolling Pin

8. In the center of each half pastry sheet, place a heap of the yummy goodness and gently press down to about 1/4 inch thickness

baby bella mushrooms beef wellington filling

A Heap of Yummy Goodness

9. Place a seared fillet on top of each heap of yummy goodness

10. Paint the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg

paula deen dufour's puff pastry

Painted Edges

11. Pull up the corners of the pastry over the meat and seal with additional beaten egg

12. Flip the meat package over and place on the rimmed baking sheet

13. Repeat until all 12 fillets are wrapped

14. Brush each package with the beaten egg

15. With the left over puff pastry, cut out seasonal shapes and place onto the wellies. Since it wasn’t yet Thanksgiving and certainly not Christmas, we decorated with fall leaves and acorn shapes.

16. Give the decorated wellies one more brush of the egg wash and place in the oven

beef wellingtons

Stuffed, Sealed, Decorated & Oven Ready

17. Bake for :20 -:22 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.  When you remove from the oven, let the wellies rest for at least :08 mins. The meat should be a perfect medium rare

18. Each guest will have his/her own perfect package with a generous pour of sherry cream sauce

individual beef wellingtons

Perfect Package

Life is full of opportunities to improvise. The trick is not to be thrown by them.

Generally, I don’t share meal prep improvisations with my guests. I mean, no one had an allergy, so did they need to know that we used real flour not corn starch to flour the pans in which we prepared a meant to be gluten-free cake? And, when you think about it, improvising with the diet coke can as a rolling pin for a fabulously fattening Paula Deen dish is not only ironic, but may be just a little bit brilliant…

The Great Reveal: Salmon Wellington

At the gym today I might have stumbled upon the Maury Show. Riveting television. Seems Maury has changed the formula for these types of programs and is now the great rapid revealer of all truths. Today’s program was filled with cheating husbands, lying wives and  paternity mysteries. Previously, these types of programs would make you wait :56 minutes before finding out the results of the DNA or lie detector tests. Not anymore. The new formula: Maury revealed results in six different cases in rapid fire succession. 4 men were forced to accept children as theirs, a wife had to forgive her spouse who turned out to be faithful and a woman met her grandson for the first time. I had chills.

Before each commercial break Maury solicits people for upcoming programs. Today, this message flashed across the screen:

“Are you engaged to your online lover but have never met? If so, contact the Maury Show at 1-888…..”

Seriously? I laughed out loud and caught the attention of the treadmillers around me.

But, then I remembered a friend who once told me that Beef Wellington was his favorite food. As a lover and annual recreator of Paula Deen’s Individual Beef Wellington’s in a Sherry Cream Sauce (recipe tips to come at Christmas time) I asked him where he had experienced his favorite food. Turns out, just like the online lovers who have never met..Beef Wellington was my friend’s favorite food that he had never had.

One of the best parts of the beef wellington is the puff pastry. You wrap up an amazing piece of beef in a pretty package – like keeping a wonderful secret. I’ve made it a dozen times, but the anxious anticipation is still there when I go to cut it open. So why not infuse more drama into your dinners and wrap other things in puff pastry throughout the year.

One of my favorite things to wrap in puff pastry is Salmon.

Salmon Wellington (serves 4)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees

2. In a medium skillet heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.

3. Stir in 1 clove peeled, minced garlic. You can add more – but garlic isn’t my thing…and you don’t want to over power the taste of the fish.

Wilting Spinach with Garlic and Olive Oil

Wilting the Spinach

4. When the garlic becomes fragrant (about 2 mins) add a 5oz package of washed, fresh spinach leaves and wilt over medium heat. This only takes a couple of minutes as well. Once wilted, set aside.

Dufour Puff Pastry from Whole Foods…The Best!

5. Unwrap 2 sheets of Dufours Puff Pastry. It’s the best – and it costs like a million dollars…but, it’s so much better than the others…So splurge here. I get mine at Whole Foods.

Cut each sheet in half

On a floured surface, roll out a half sheet just a little – you don’t want to lose all of the thickness.

6. Remove the skin and season 4 5oz salmon fillets on both sides with Salt and Pepper.

Skinned Salmon Fillets ready for wrapping

7. Place one Salmon fillet in the center of the sheet and top it with the wilted spinach. Using an eggwash (just beat an egg with a little bit of water) paint the outer border of the pastry.

Salmon Fillet In Center of Puff Pastry topped with Spinach

8. Fold the bottom corner of the pastry over the salmon lengthwise.  Then fold the right and left corners creating an ‘envelope’. Finally fold the top corner over and pinch closed with your fingers.

Repeat with remaining 3 fillets and spinach.

9. You can decorate the tops of each fillet using more puff pastry dough and cookie cutters…Or, if you’re all creative and such, go free-hand.

Place each fillet on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush with egg wash.

Salmon Wellington Ready for the Oven

Salmon Wellington Ready for the Oven

10. Into the oven for :25 mins and you’ll have a beautiful, wrapped mystery meal to reveal! Inside the salmon is moist and tender, perfectly cooked. Outside, the pastry is warm and flaky.

Cutting into puff pastry and finding salmon and spinach instead of beef and mushroomy goodness may not be as dramatic as finding out who your baby daddy is or meeting your online fiance for the first time… But, it’s just as suspenseful and twice as delicious!

Maury isn’t the only one with secrets to reveal.