From Mistake to Masterpiece: Smoked Beef Tenderloin for Beef Wellington
For a recent Supper Club that my wife and I host with another couple, I made Beef Wellington for the first time. It was good (for a first-timer) but I made a few mistakes – one of which was serving it so rare it was practically tartare. But the presentation looked so amazing that I wanted to perfect the dish for a future special occasion or Saturday night – whichever came first. As I was paging through Project Smoke the next day I came across the recipe for Smoked Beef Tenderloin and my problem was solved: instead of just searing the tenderloin and risk an uncooked middle, I could smoke it to an internal temperature of 110 degrees, and then reverse-sear it to a perfect rare (not raw). I still had most of the ingredients and a section of a D’Artagnan tenderloin in the fridge from making the first Wellington, and since I already had four pork butts in the smoker, I couldn’t resist – I had to try it.
Beef Wellington Recipe
First, I liberally seasoned the D’Artagnan tenderloin (which was just over a pound) with salt and freshly-ground black pepper, then inserted a thermometer probe and put it on the top rack of my smoker. After about 45 minutes at 250 degrees it reached an internal temperature of 100 degrees. I removed it from the heat and let it rest for a few minutes. Using a preheated cast iron skillet, I seared all sides until the tenderloin reached an internal temperature of 120 degrees, then removed it from the heat and brushed it all over with Dijon mustard. Not wanting to waste a drop of the drippings, I added them back to the skillet along with a cup each of port and red wine. When the wine had reduced by half, I added two cups of beef stock, a sprig of rosemary, and a bay leaf. This mixture reduced by half again. and I then strained it into a small sauce pan and stuck it in my “Minnesota fridge” (aka, garage).
Next, I made the mushroom duxelles. I finely chopped the mushrooms, cooked them until the water evaporated, and seasoned with salt, black pepper, and fresh thyme. This also went to the fridge for a bit. While everything was cooling, I prepped my workstation by laying out several layers of plastic wrap. Eyeballing the width of the tenderloin, I laid out the prosciutto, spread out the mushroom duxelles, and seasoned with more salt and pepper.
With the tenderloin strategically positioned atop the prosciutto and mushroom paste, I carefully lifted the plastic wrap to begin the roll. Once the tenderloin came full-circle I continued to roll it and wrap it in plastic wrap. Now wrapped tightly, I twisted the ends, tucked them underneath, and into the fridge the cylinder went; tomorrow I would cook it to completion.
The Next Day
On the morrow I took the puff pastry out of the fridge to thaw and then used a rolling pin to thin it out and ensure the length and width would fit the tenderloin. Again, using plastic wrap to assist with the roll, I layered it on the counter and placed the puff pastry on top. I carefully removed the tenderloin from its plastic wrap and set it on the edge of a pastry border. Initiating the roll, I again lifted the plastic wrap until the pastry touched its opposite end and then continued to roll and twist the ends to seal the tenderloin in its pastry exterior. Using a sharp knife, I then cut the ends off, carefully removed the plastic wrap, and brushed the surface with egg yolk. The final product was placed on top of a sheet of parchment paper atop a baking pan, and into the oven for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. During this time, I reheated the sauce with two tablespoons of butter for serving.
Once I was satisfied with the crispiness of the pastry, I took it out of the oven and rested it for 10 agonizing minutes before slicing it into four servings. This time it wasn’t raw, but a perfect rare/medium-rare. The Beef Wellington was served alongside glazed carrots and mashed potatoes with melted brie, with the port-wine sauce poured over everything. We cleansed our palates between bites with Pinot Noir. If there was ever a perfect meal, that was it. I have a hunch that I will be making this dish many more times in the future, and the tenderloin will always be smoked first.
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