Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fun with Dick and Jane

Fifty years is a long time.  1961.  John Kennedy was president and Barack Obama was an infant.  It was also the year that my in-laws, Dick and Jane (yes, really) were married.  A fiftieth anniversary is a lot of things--it's 50 years of memories and 50 years of stories, but mainly, it's a really good reason to have a party--a fancy one.  And so we did.  We gathered the clan, which after 50 years has grown to 21, and pulled out all the stops:  china, crystal, silver, and a meal that used 3 lbs of butter, 10 lbs of beef tenderloin, and at least 6 cups of heavy cream.  It's the kind of party that, candidly, you really can only have once every generation years because I'm not sure you would otherwise survive it. 

A word here on fancy dinner parties, which I recognize are a dying breed.  It's funny really.  The average bride-to-be will spend countless hours figuring out her "registry," will dutifully ooh and aah at the haul of china, crystal, and silver she gets as shower and wedding gifts, and then she will summarily stuff it all back in its original box and store it in the crawl space over the garage.  For a very long time.  If not forever.  Instead, when she and her husband entertain, they'll head to Costco for a tower of paper plates and a box of silver colored plastic utensils.  There's a belief, I suppose, that if you use your good stuff, it will break, tarnish, look "used", and will otherwise never be in the wondrous pristine condition as when you first got it.   It's not a short step from there to putting plastic runners down your hallways and covering your seat cushions with cellophane.  Don't do it.  Use your stuff. 

Be careful with it.  Baby it.  Pamper it.  Clean it with ammonia-free detergents and store it in layers of bubble wrap.  And yes, I am fully aware of how much work that it is, but for God's sake USE IT.   Expect and understand that along the way it will get chipped, scratched, and broken.  That's OK.  Puttin' on the Ritz is fun, and after 50 years, you'll be happier for the memories than with unopened boxes.  Just ask Dick and Jane.

Individual Beef Wellington--a dish served best on bone china.
1.   Pat dry with a clean paper towel eight 4 ounce cuts of beef tenderloin-trimmed of all visible fat.  Generously salt and pepper.  (OK, I made 24 of these bad boys, which took 5 hours, and on some level was simply insane, but for an 8 person dinner party, this recipe really isn't that bad.)

2.  Heat about 3 Tbs of olive oil in a large frying pan, and sear each steak until it is brown--about 3 minutes per side.  Set aside and chill.

3. In the same frying pan, because you want to scrape up all the good bits of seared meat and juice, add 2 finely chopped shallots and 2 cloves of minced garlic.  Add a little olive oil if necessary.  Soften--about 5 minutes.

4.  Add 1 cup of Madeira and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes or until the Madeira is reduced to about 1/2 cup. 

5.  Add 1/2 cup of beef broth and simmer for another 3-4 minutes.  Remove the sauce from heat and refrigerate.

6.  In the same pan (because there are some tremendous flavors in this pan about now) add 2 Tbs  butter, one large Mayan or Vidalia onion, thinly sliced, and 2 Tbs of chopped shallots.

7.  As the onions and shallots begin to soften, add 8 large thinly sliced mushrooms.  Salt and pepper.

8.  Continue to cook on medium heat until the mushrooms are lightly browned.  Set aside to cool completely.

9.  In a small bowl, beat one egg to make an egg wash.

10.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out one puff pastry sheet and cut into 4 squares, each large enough to fully wrap one tenderloin steak, about a 6.5 inch square.

11.  Put one heaping Tbs of the onion/mushroom mixture on a puff pastry square, and then top with a tenderloin steak.  If you want to go really high-falutin', you can also add a small two inch square of pate, or one Tbs. of crumbled Gorgonzola between the mushrooms and onions and the beef.

12.  Wrap each corner of the puff pastry over the steak, and seal the seam with the egg wash.

13.  Repeat for each steak, which will require a second puff pastry sheet for the last four steaks.

14.  Arrange each Beef Wellington on a non-stick baking sheet, seam side down.

15.  Chill at least one hour and up to one day.

16.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Brush the top of each Beef Wellington with the egg wash.  Bake 20-30 minutes until the puff pastry is golden brown.

17.  While the Beef Wellington is cooking, bring out the now fully chilled Madeira sauce.  Heat until hot and add 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream.   Spoon the sauce on that plate of china you agonized selecting, and top with a Beef Wellington.  Pair with mashed potatoes and a nice crisp green vegetable.

1 comment:

  1. You, my dear, are a hell of a writer, an amazing chef and a loving daughter-in-law. A blessing to behold!

    The Pie Guy