What do you do when you are Richard and your brother-in-law, a hunter, gives you dressed wild pheasant? You make Pheasant Wellington. Richard invited me to make Pheasant Wellington and not knowing anything about making Wellington anything, I cheerfully said yes. I have seen Beef Wellington at a nice upscale restaurant. The only other Wellington that I know about is the Duke of Wellington and the green rubber boots that people in England call Wellingtons. The duke was a hero of the Napoleonic Wars and Prime Minister of England among other feats of daring-do. While some say that the dish is named after the duke others disagree. The duke was fond of a “dish of beef, truffles, mushrooms, Madeira wine, and pâté cooked in pastry, but there is a noted lack of evidence supporting this. ”Retrieved from Wikipedia January 10, 2011.
Salad – mixed greens
Dandelion greens, scallions with apple slices
Condiment – Anna’s Chestnut Crabapple ginger jam
Dessert – Richard’s Grandmother’s Cherry Pudding Cake with sour cream mixed with whipped cream topping. (Oh yeah.)
The recipes required these ingredients, pheasant not beef, mushrooms, chicken livers, puff pastry, salad fixings, one large green apple, dandelion greens, and scallions. (Experience, lots of experience.)
I am no longer a food processor virgin. Richard instructed me to process the mushrooms into tiny bits by pulsing them and something that would take me a lot longer by hand happened very quickly in front of my eyes. I felt like I was cheating. (Hey, we were just getting started.) Then the mushrooms were sautéed in a frying pan until they are very dry, in butter, a little olive oil, add some salt and a dash of nutmeg. I stirred them constantly at a low temperature to prevent sticking or crisping. This takes a while. (Be patient and sip tea once in a while.) We traded off between tasks. Even the guest Gary took a turn with the Duxelle tending. Gary reported that he made Beef Wellington once. It took a day to make – he cut the mushrooms by hand.
The mushrooms cooked and were set by an open window to cool.
Next Richard started the cooking of the chicken livers in butter and bacon fat with a one finely cut up shallot and one small onion. The livers became tender as they cook, which made it easy to cut them into smaller pieces with the spoon I was using to stir them. Richard threw in some cognac and some cream and then couple of bay leaves at the end. These too were set by the open window to cool when they were done.
A good ¾ pounds of chicken livers were cooked. Once cooled, I had the pleasure of using yet another smaller food processor to mash-up the chicken livers into a pate. (The benefits of making your own liver pate are that you get to taste test it.) It was fabulous smeared on a little slice of French bread.
At this point, I want to note that Richard was using two recipes from two cookbooks and improvising as he cooked. I would read and he would orchestrate the moves.
The Duxelle and pate were ready and Richard lightly cooked the pheasant breasts in oil and butter. When they were cooled the assembly process for the Wellington began.
My research tells me there are many versions of Beef Wellington that all have very different ingredients. Since Richard was working with pheasant, a very mild tasting, no fat bird, he kept the ingredients simple and pure. The richness of the flavor of the Duxelle and the pate combined as layers – first the puff pastry, then the Duxelle, then the pheasant breasts that had been liberally smeared, by me, with pate were carefully rolled by Richard into the dough. For this trick, Richard carefully put clear plastic under the puff pastry and used it to fold the dough over the layers. It worked like a charm.
Venting the roll was the next step before the basting with whole egg wash and the flourish of fun decorative swirls and leaves were added. Food can be pleasing to the eye before it disappears into the very appreciative guests.
Here’s what it looked like right out of the oven! It was a thing of beauty. Three cheers for the cook!
I could hardly wait to dig into this classic meal. It was just the right blend of flavors. Sheer pleasure. Cooking time – it took about two and a half hours with two people working. That was me following Chef’s directions. (Richard made the dessert ahead of time.)
Need I say more?
Chase winter away with a sumptuous, yet restrained meal.
Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well click here to check out Richard’s recipe description of the whole process.