When we finally get some cold weather down here in the Lone Star state, the rut is usually kicking in and Santa isn't too far off from landing on the roof. No doubt that it's a special time of year and to me, this is one of the best times to break out some classic recipes and enhance them with one of the very finest cuts of wild game meat, the backstrap.
When prepared in its traditional form, beef Wellington uses a beef tenderloin, pâté and puff pastry to form one of the most iconic and flavorful dishes of all time. Aesthetically, it's simply stunning and flavor-wise, it's rich, yet balanced.
My take on this traditional dish replaces the pâté with a puree of sautéed mushrooms, pecans and spices that adds another layer of flavor to the dish. When paired together with a fresh cut of wild game, it's truly wonderful.
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
12 oz of white mushrooms, rough chopped
1 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary
3 TBSP butter
1/2 cup of chopped pecans
3 "glugs" of good extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch of cinnamon
1 pinch of ground clove
1 tsp of orange zest
Salt and pepper to taste
Trimmed backstrap, 10-12 inches in length
All the Rest
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed, but cold
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
To make the filling, add the garlic and shallot and a splash of olive oil to a hot pan and sauté for a couple of minutes until the shallots begin to soften. Once the shallots and garlic have cooked slightly, add the mushrooms and pecans. At this point, it's really important to have a hot pan. The goal is to cook out all of the moisture from within the mushrooms, otherwise they will steam... and that's somewhat gross. Once the mushrooms have cooked down for roughly 5-8 minutes, add the butter, rosemary cinnamon, ground clove, salt and pepper to the pan. Let these ingredients cook together for another couple of minutes and remove from pan to cool. Once this mixture has cooled for a few minutes, place into a food processor and add the orange zest. Be careful if these ingredients are still somewhat hot! While slowly adding in the olive oil, blend until it has the consistency of a thick paste. It might take slightly less or slightly more oil depending on what you're using, so when you're happy with the consistency, you're all set.
At this point, it's time to sear the meat. Elk, Axis, Whitetail, you can use whatever backstrap you have ready to roll. Season the meat with salt and pepper and sear on all sides in a hot skillet until nicely browned on all sides. Let the meat rest on a side plate while you get ready for assembly.
Now... for the fun part. Take one sheet of puff pastry(yes, I use store bought) and lay it out on a clean, lightly floured surface. Taking a rolling pin, gently roll out the pastry until it's large enough to accommodate the backstrap. Remember, you can always trim excess pastry prior to cooking! Once the pastry is rolled out, evenly spread the filling, stopping about 1 inch from all sides. Place the meat on the near side of the pastry and roll closed, sealing the sides as you roll. Once you have rolled the pastry over once, stop and trim and excess pastry. It's best if the pastry seam is on the bottom of the Wellington. Removing any extra pastry will ensure that everything will cook evenly and there will not be any raw dough at the end.
Brush the outside with an egg wash, slice a couple of vents to let steam escape and place on a parchment covered baking sheet.
Smoke or bake at 400 degrees until desired temperature is reached and the crust is golden brown. Slice and enjoy with family and friends.