This elegant staple of 1960s dinner parties derives its name from The Duke of Wellington, the nineteenth century English statesman and military officer. The name is not due to his gourmet tastes, however, but because the final dish is said to resemble the shiny dark military boots he wore.
Beef Wellington traditionally is a 2 to 4 pound beef tenderloin topped with mushroom duxelles and foie gras pate, and then encased in puff pastry. We've simplified the preparation by instead wrapping individual beef filets. This recipe makes 4 servings, but it easily can be doubled or halved.
The filets need to be cut about 1 1/2-inches thick to ensure that the meat doesn't dry out or become overcooked while roasting in the oven. If the meat is cut thinner, reduce the oven cooking time appropriately. And if your filets are greater than six ounces, the puff pastry will need to be cut into a larger square in order to envelop the meat completely. If this is the case, you may need two sheets of puff pastry instead of the one called for here.
Also, this cooking time plus resting time is for meat that's served medium-rare. If you like your meat more done, increase the initial cooking time in the skillet by another minute or two, and monitor the doneness of the meat from the oven with an instant-read thermometer.
Classic sauces, such as Marchand de Vin and Bearnaise, would be delicious accompaniments to these little Beef Wellingtons, as would creamed spinach or steamed asparagus or haricots verts.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Season both sides of each filet with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper.
Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the filets and sear for 1 minute on each side for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate to cool completely.
Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 14-inch square, and cut into 4 (7-inch) squares.
Spread one-quarter of the mushroom duxelles on top of each filet and top each with 1 slice of the pate, pressing to flatten. Place one filet, mushroom side down, in the center of a puff pastry square. Using a pastry brush or your finger, paint the inside edges of the pastry with egg wash. Fold the pastry over the filet as though wrapping a package and press the edges to seal. Place the packages seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the egg wash over the tops and sides of each package and bake until the pastry is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 140 degrees F for medium-rare, about 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Place the Beef Wellingtons in the center of 4 large plates, and accompany with the sauce and vegetables of choice.
Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, salt, and white pepper, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms begin to caramelize, about 12 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring to deglaze the pan, until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and let cool before using.