decadence, defined

Do you ever get a thought stuck in your noggin’ and you can’t for the life of you let go of it? No matter what you do, no matter what else you think about, that one thought just stays there, following you like those ghosts on Pac-man. I hate those ghosts, and I was never all that good at pac-man anyway.

So instead of running, this particular thought was faced head-on. I made Beef Wellington.

I’ve only “made” beef Wellington once, and by “made” I mean that I assisted as sous chef. My friend, Caroline, made it once at a dinner party that I helped with (I do miss those, C!) and I remember thinking about how lucky those folks were to be eating such a fine fine meal. We, of course, partook in quite a few “scraps” and yeah, it was good stuff.

But for some reason, the idea of making beef Wellington this past weekend was something I couldn’t stop thinking about. It was the weekend of our 6 year wedding anniversary (!), and we’d decided to stay home and take it easy, so a nice, decadent meal seemed like the right thing to do.

Chris and I did burn a few calories on the bikes, anyway, so we had a little extra room for some butter-laden dough, prosciutto, and of course, beef. We finished up our trip through Golden Gate Park, stopped off at Whole Foods, and loaded up on our ingredients as well as some cheese and crackers to tide us over until dinner.

I decided we didn’t quite need to do an entire recipe of beef Wellington, so I made some adjustments to one of “T-Flo’s” recipes, and came up with the most ginormous “individual” portions I’d ever seen.

I’m sure on most days I could have eaten it all then and there, but with the mountain of cheese we ate beforehand, this ended up being a 4-serving dish instead of 2. Which is to say that we managed to drag out the decadence for another night. And it was good, my friends, good indeed. Perfect for a special night in, a dinner party perhaps, or even a holiday dish to replace all of that turkey we folks eat all the dang time.

I guess, also, you could make it on a regular ol’ Tuesday night, too. But that just sounds crazy, and we are sane as can be over here.

“Individual” Beef Wellingtons
Adapted, loosely, from Tyler Florence via The Food Network, serves 2-4

time commitment: less than 2 hours from start to finish

printable version

ingredients
mushrooms, aka “duxelles” & kale
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only
1 T unsalted butter
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 c fresh kale

beef
2 6 oz portions of filet mignon, trimmed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (truffle salt, if you have it)
4 thin slices prosciutto
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
1 T Dijon mustard
Flour, for rolling out puff pastry
10-12 oz puff pastry, thawed if using frozen
1 large egg, lightly beaten

green peppercorn sauce
1 T olive oil
1/2 shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only
1/2 c sherry
2 c beef stock
1 c heavy cream
1 T grainy mustard
3 T green peppercorns

instructions
make the duxelles and kale:
add mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add butter and olive oil to a large saute pan and set over medium heat. Add the shallot and mushroom mixture and saute for ~6 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool. add kale to pan and sauté until cooked throughout, season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

beef:
drizzle filets with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper and sear all over, including the ends, in a hot, heavy-based skillet lightly coated with olive oil – about 2 to 3 minutes total. Meanwhile set out 2 slices of prosciutto on a sheet of plastic wrap on top of your cutting board. Layer the 2 slices of prosciutto onto the plastic wrap. Using a rubber spatula cover evenly with 1/2 of the duxelle mixture. Season the surface of the duxelles with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Add 1/2 of the kale next. When the beef is seared, remove from heat, and smear lightly all over with Dijon mustard. Allow to cool slightly, then roll up in the duxelles covered prosciutto using the plastic wrap and repeat with the other filet. Tuck in the ends of the prosciutto as you roll to completely encompass the beef. Roll it up tightly in plastic wrap. Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to ensure it maintains its shape.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to about a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut the sheet in half, using each half for each filet. Depending on the size of your sheets you may have to overlap 2 sheets and press them together. Remove beef from refrigerator and cut off plastic. Set 1 beef filet in the center of the pastry and fold over the longer sides, brushing with egg wash to seal. Trim ends if necessary then brush with egg wash and fold over to completely seal the beef. Place the beef seam side down on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining filet.

Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash then make a couple of slits in the top of the pastry using the tip of a paring knife – this creates vents that will allow the steam to escape when cooking. Bake for ~30-40 minutes until pastry is golden brown and beef registers 125 F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from oven and rest before cutting in half. Garnish with thyme and sea salt, and serve with green peppercorn sauce, if using.

Make green peppercorn sauce (while beef is cooking):
Add olive oil to pan after removing beef. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme; saute for 1 to 2 minutes, then, off heat, add sherry and flambe using a long kitchen match. After flame dies down, return to the heat, add stock and reduce by about half. Strain out solids, then add cream and mustard. Reduce by half again, then shut off heat and add green peppercorns. Serve alongside beef.

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Pholicious

Okay. Remember how I’ve always said that I rarely make things more than once? I got bored a little bit ago (c’mon, people, I’m in Cupertino, California for the time being. It passes the time.) and I updated the recipe section (there are sections within sections now – watch out!). In doing so, I also made a list of the dishes I’ve actually made more than once on this site.

As it turns out, there are less than ten out of probably 200+ recipes on this blog that have been given this particular distinction. I was surprised there were that many, but nonetheless, here they are –

Paella. It requires getting your hands on Spanish chorizo, but when you do it is such a satisfying dish. I heart saffron.

Pad Thai. This one doesn’t require any explaining. It’s just a damn good recipe, and you should make it, too. Matter of fact, once I get settled, I’m going to make it again.

Deviled eggs. Okay, this one doesn’t really count. It’s a Thanksgiving dish that we just can’t live without. Plus, Luke eats like 5 of them so I think he’d miss it.

Puppy chow. The easiest party dish ever, so again, a no-brainer. 5 ingredients – 5!

Zucchini fries with romesco sauce. Seriously, what’s not to love? Although, making something twice isn’t that much to write home about, but I’d give these a third go if the timing was right…

Granola bars. Man, I want to make these NOW! I’m going to miss not being able to roll outta bed at 9 and eat cereal every morning (okay, 9 on a good day. there were a couple of 11 am wake-ups too, just a couple).

Vanilla-chai granola. Again – this would be really good in some Greek yogurt right. this. minute.

Baked pasta with squash and sweet potatoes. Creamy, vegetable-y goodness, all in one casserole dish.

B’stilla. Yes, Chris, I know I didn’t make this for you for your birthday this year. Clearly, we had other stuff going on. All in good time, love.

Nine. Nine! But there are at least 50 other dishes that got me drooling all over my Wallaby pineapple yogurt the other day. One day, I’ll revisit some of them. One day. But for now, I already have dish #10. I found a recipe for a quick version of pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) in Food & Wine last month, and since I’ve done nothing but think of pho since living in California (it’s awesome – noodle shops every mile or so, for real), I knew this dish could be a problem.

And it is. But such a good problem, though. I’ve already made it twice, and have so many leftover bunches of basil, bean sprouts, and scallions in the fridge that I decided it’s going back on the list this week. And sure, it’s not quite as delicious as the more time-consuming, traditional versions (including whatever they do at the actual restaurant here called Pholicious), but it’ll do for a quick weeknight meal.

Okay, okay. It’ll also do for lunch, a midnight snack, or a weekend meal with a movie and a bottle of wine. Just call it a multi-purpose dish, and make it.

Quick Vietnamese Pho
Adapted from Food & Wine, March 2011; serves 4

time commitment: less than 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
5 c chicken stock or low-sodium broth
4 c water
2 T agave syrup
2 T finely grated fresh ginger
3 T low-sodium soy sauce*
1 8oz package thin brown (or white) rice noodles
3 T fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges, for serving
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb trimmed beef tenderloin, very thinly sliced across the grain
1 t dark sesame oil
1/2 c chopped basil
1/4 c chopped scallions
1 c mung bean sprouts
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly
Sriracha, for serving

*gluten-free available

instructions
in a large saucepan, combine the chicken stock with the water, agave syrup, grated ginger and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and simmer over low heat for 2 minutes. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper.

using tongs, transfer the noodles to bowls. Add the beef to the noodles and ladle the hot broth on top. Drizzle with the sesame oil and top with the basil, scallions and bean sprouts. Serve with lime wedges and chile sauce.