Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Return of Wellington

From time to time I like keep track of what I call an "Endangered Foods List," involving dishes once popular some years ago now nearly forgotten, rare, or even extinct. Anthony Bourdain makes mention of such fare in Kitchen Confidential, referring to recipes he learned from his days in the CIA, ca. 1975: "We're talking two years of cauliflower in Mornay sauce, saddle of veal Orloff, lobster thermidor, institutional favorites like chicken Hawaiian, grilled ham steak with pineapple ring and old-style lumbering classics like beef Wellington."

You'll be hard-pressed to find many of these dishes in big-city, trendy restaurants. But the other night, at a dinner at the German ambassador's residence honoring a visiting dignitary, I was surprised to find "Beef Filet Wellington with mixed Baby Greens On 'Dornfelder Essence'" on the menu. Nevermind the vegetables and the "essence," I pointed out to my table guests from Stuttgart, the real excitement was the Beef Wellington, what Epicurious describes as "the entertaining extravaganza of the 1960s."

Contrary to Bourdain's pejorative, Monday night's Wellington was far from lumbering. The pastry shell was flaky and delicately toasted. Just inside its ring was a layer of finely chopped mushrooms. The filet itself was tender with a dark pink center.

Ahem.

But kudos to residence chef Benoit Teisseire (a Frenchman, though married to a German) who mastered this feat for more than one hundred guests. Teisseire gets bonus props for helping save a classic from going the way of the dodo.

Now if someone can help me find a good chicken a la king...

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ah Matus, on the diplomatic dinner circuit now. Hob-nobbing with the world's power brokers?

Ever tried an obscure dish called Tuna Rockefeller? I think it is in the same vein as your other favorites...

MBMc said...

Beef Wellington "going the way of the Dodo". Laughing. Audibly.

Wershoven said...

I just made a beef wellington for my wife's 30th birthday this evening. The mushroom duxelles layer, made with shallot and Gewurtztraminer combined perfectly with the small piece of country pate, filet mignon (mine came out a bit more well than is preferred), and the Fresh Direct-provided puff pastry dough. Yes, homemade dough would have been better, but I did this after work, so cut me some slack.

My point: Beef Wellington is back, at least at my house.

Anonymous said...

For shame, Matus. I mean, really. I expect this kind of thing from Last--"a layer of finely chopped mushrooms"--but not from you.

Calling the duxelle pate "a layer of finely chopped mushrooms" is no different from calling your fiancee a whore.

I HOPE YOU AT LEAST TOPPED IT OFF WITH SOME W-BRAND KETCHUP!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey, VM, the next time you're with the Germans for dinner, ask for a Cuban for a post meal stroll...

Forget the big names...the Bolivar gran corona is the best Cuban IMO.

sandpiper said...

Do you ever remember FIZZIES the little tablets we could put in a glass of water and make a flavorful drink