|Mock Wellington Bites|
So, in casting about for something else new to make, and pair with a red wine (since this group mostly prefers red wine), I thought about Beef Wellington. However, I didn't want to spend a bundle and I wanted them to be tiny enough for a couple of bites. In order to manage this, I felt that the meat would have to be diced very small. My reasoning on this: a single larger cube of meat would be harder to bite into. We are talking about walking around with a little appetizer in hand. We do not want someone to take a little bite and end up with the meat on the floor, or worse yet, take a bigger bite and end up with a large piece of meat in their mouth and the rest of the pastry empty.
|Sauteed Mushrooms, Fried Meats and Assembly|
To balance this out, I felt that small diced meat would be best. And then, what else would go in them? Long, long ago, my husband and I frequented a restaurant in Kalamazoo. They had a most wonderful Individual Beef Wellington on the menu, and I have recreated this, using the things I knew were in there (filet mignon, bacon, mushroom), and then adding in things that would make these basic ingredients taste exceptional. They have always turned out wonderfully flavored and perfectly done, so I went with the flavors I used for those. Mushrooms? Absolutely. I pulsed them fine in the food processor and sautéed them in butter and oil until they started browning, then added in garlic and fresh thyme leaves and some dry Sherry for flavor, cooking it out completely.
|Mock Wellington Bites|
I diced bacon and fried it crisp and set it aside while quickly sautéing the tiny cubed meat over very high heat. I did this in batches (with my extractor fan on high so the smoke alarm wouldn't deafen me!), so it wouldn't steam in the pan, then removed to a bowl. It still released a lot of liquid, which I poured off. Once the meat was done, and cooled, the bacon went in with the finished meat, along with freshly minced rosemary and some Gorgonzola crumbles. The Gorgonzola is one thing I never put in my Beef Wellingtons, but I was going for maximum flavor, something that would pair well with a strong red, like a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Of course, this excellent set of mixtures would be wrapped in puff pastry, so I tried out folding little pouches just as I'd done for the Smoky Andouille Corn Pouches. It seemed to work well. I froze the pouches, to be baked later. A day later I tried out baking just 4 of the pouches to see how they baked and how the whole little package came out. As it happens, they came out really wonderfully well. The only thing was that because they were so small, at 475 degrees the outside of the pastry got beautifully browned while the inside of the pastry was still doughy. I will lower the temperature to 400 degrees when baking the remainder.
I felt that freezing the little pouches before baking was a good idea for a few reasons. First, it keeps the pastry in place while it begins baking, so they tend not to pop open in the oven, and they expand beautifully this way. Secondly, the insides are already cooked, so they only need reheating while the pastry gets baked. Thirdly, freezing means I can have them prepared way ahead and baked briefly just before serving. Best of all worlds.
Mock Wellington Bites
Makes 32 Little Bites
|Mock Wellington Bites|
5 - 6 slices thick bacon, diced
2 tablespoons bacon fat, reserved from frying
1 pound sirloin steak, in ¼-inch cubes
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced finely
½ teaspoon Beef & Pork Seasoning
6 ounces Gorgonzola Crumbles
1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, finely minced
½ teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1½ - 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
⅓ cup dry Sherry (NOT cooking Sherry!), or white wine, optional
½ medium onion, minced finely
½ teaspoon salt
1 Package Puff Pastry (2 sheets)
1 egg, for egg wash when baking
Remove the Puff Pastry Sheets from the freezer, unwrap and set on the counter to thaw completely.
Heat a large skillet and fry the diced bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to paper toweling to drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease aside.
Use 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease in the pan and heat to high heat. Add half the meat cubes and sear them briefly, tossing until very little pink remains. Turn out into a bowl. If more grease is needed, add the second tablespoon of grease to the pan and sear the second half of the meat, adding it to the bowl when done. Giving the meat a few minutes to settle, drain off any liquids that form. Add in the salt, pepper to taste, rosemary and Beef & Pork Seasoning and toss well. Once the meat has cooled, add the drained bacon and the Gorgonzola Crumbles and toss well. Set aside.
In a clean skillet, heat to medium or medium high heat and add in the butter and olive oil. Add the mushrooms and the first ½-teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring and tossing continually. They will release a lot of liquid, but keep stirring until it has all evaporated and the mushrooms begin to take on a bit of golden brown color. Add in the garlic and thyme leaves and toss to distribute. Add the Sherry or wine, if using, and stir, cooking until all the wine has evaporated. Remove the mushrooms to a bowl.
Add the onions and the next ½-teaspoon salt to the pan and sauté the onions gently, over medium low heat, stirring often, until they get a golden color. Add the onion to the mushrooms and mix well. Set aside and allow to cool.
Flour a surface and unroll one Puff Pastry sheet. If it is completely thawed, it will open without cracking. If it wants to crack apart at one of the folds, it is not thawed enough. Once ready, lightly dist the top surface with flour.
Roll out the pastry sheet to about a 16½ x 16½-inch square. Keep it as squared as possible. Trim off the outer edges all the way around, leaving a 16 x 16-inch square. Cut the large square into 16 smaller, 4 x 4-inch squares: first cut the square in half in one direction, then each half into halves in the same direction. Repeat this halving in the opposite direction. Have a small cup of water at hand, for moistening the edges of the squares, when folding.
|Folding the Wellington Bites|
Using a teaspoon measure, scoop a generously rounded, packed portion of the mushroom mixture onto the center of each 4-inch square. Neaten it into a flat circle and then using the same teaspoon, scoop up a generous portion of the meat mixture, placing it atop the mushrooms on each square. Press the meat into neat mounds. Moisten all four edges of the square. Lift two corners, bringing the points together and sealing the seam. Lift another point to the center and press to catch the point with the previous two, then seal that edge. Now, bring up the remaining point to the center, pressing it with the other points, to adhere, then press the remaining two edges to seal. Do this with each of the 16 squares.
Set the little packets onto a baking sheet once they are completed. Repeat this whole process with the remaining Puff Pastry sheet, for a total of 32 little pouches. Set the baking sheet into the freezer and allow the packets to freeze for at least an hour. If baking that day, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
DO AHEAD: If making these ahead, once frozen, remove all the little frozen pouches to a zip-top bag and keep them frozen for up to 3 weeks. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set the frozen pouches onto a baking sheet.
Whisk the egg lightly with 1 tablespoon of water, for the egg wash. This will make the pouches bake beautifully golden, with a pretty shine. Using a pastry brush, brush the top sides of the pastries with the egg wash. Do not allow egg to drip onto the baking sheet, as this can "glue" them to the pan, making removal from the tray very difficult later. Bake the pastries for 10 or 12 minutes, as needed for the pastry to become beautifully golden and puffed. Serve hot or at room temperature, preferably with a nice glass of Cabernet at hand. 😀
My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.