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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When I grow up...

...I want to be a doctor, vet, teacher, nurse, police woman, artist, acrobat, race car driver,...etc.  These are all careers that I had mentioned during my elementary years when asked the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?"  Truthfully, at that age I had no idea what I wanted to be and every career seemed so wonderful and fun, or dangerous and exciting.

As my mind and personality developed through the years, I recognized that I had much more of an artistic mind than an intellectual mind.  While in high school I had settled on the idea that I was going to go to college to study photography so that I could become a photojournalist after graduation.  In fact, I even went to a university and took quite a few courses in photography but it still just didn't seem to fit who I was and who I wanted to become.

I didn't actually come clean with what my real careers goals were and what they had always been until I was having the "serious chat" with the man who would ultimately become my husband.  You know the chat I'm talking about... where you start laying out dreams and aspirations for the future.  "How many kids do you want to have?"  "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?"  "How about 20 years?"  "What's your view on politics?"  "Do you really like my mother, or are you just pretending?"  You know what I'm talking about.  "A" asked me what my careers goals were and for whatever reason it just came pouring out of my mouth unlike any other time I was asked that question before.  I said to him "I have 2 goals in life: to be a loving and supportive wife to a loving a supportive husband, and to be the best darn mother I can be.  After that, I could be a garbage man for the rest of my life and I wouldn't care."  WHOA!!  Did that just come out of my mouth?  WOW!!  I really do feel that way.  It's amazing what truths are dragged out of you when you're with the right person.  We were married within 1 month of having that conversation.

"A" was the one who pointed me toward culinary school, but not because he felt like I needed a new career.  He merely recognized my passion for cooking and hospitality since he was always so well fed and I was always eager to host family holiday gatherings and parties and put on a huge spread.  After the first semester I knew I made the right choice to attend because I truly enjoyed culinary school in every way (well, except for the accounting classes).  Plus, it made me realize that I really do desire a career, and gave me some fresh new ideas for my future as a chef.  More importantly, it helped me become a new and improved wife and mom.  I now feel like I can better provide for my family with: better time management, knowledge of proper nutrition and well balanced meals, better understanding of cost controls and budgeting, plus so much more.

If you hang with me for at least the next couple years you will see some of my future culinary goals come to fruition.  Until then, my excitement comes from recipe research in the kitchen and the smiles that come from O and A when they get to sample the end product.  For instance, just this past Sunday I served my family Beef Wellington for dinner.  For any of you who have attempted Beef Wellington you know very well that it is no small undertaking and it takes a little bit of time and dedication to the meal to put out a great product.  It was a great success, and the time and effort were well worth it for such appreciative patrons at the family dinner table.  In fact, the flavor was so amazing that I am going to share the recipe with you.  I hope you make it for your family and/or friends too.  Smiles, hugs, kisses, and heart-felt thanks from your loved ones truly is the ultimate paycheck.  At least, that's the way I've always seen it. 

This recipe uses a pre packaged puff pastry for those of you who are not ready for the time commitment that is required for the art of making puff pastry. Don't worry though.  If you're interested in puff pastry (or any pastry for that matter) I will guide you through that later.  Also, I do not have a sauce recipe written here.  I used a red wine reduction infused with thyme, but any nice beef sauce will do.  If you would like a sauce recipe suggestion let me know in the comment section below.  I have more than one to suggest ;)

Beef Wellington
2.5 lbs center cut beef tenderloin
1 pint mini bella or crimini mushrooms
1 pint white button mushrooms
2 shallots
3 whole cloves of garlic
3 sprigs fresh marjoram (leaves only)
4 sprigs fresh thyme (leaves only)
Kosher or sea salt
black pepper
1T unsalted butter
1T extra virgin olive oil
1/4C dijon mustard
1 sheet puff pastry
Egg wash (1 egg lightly scrambled with 1T of water)

Season your beef tenderloin all over with salt and pepper.  Sear tenderloin on all sides in a medium to large saute pan with olive oil.  Set aside to rest.  In a food processor, combine all mushrooms, shallots, garlic, marjoram, and thyme.  Pulse ingredients until finally chopped and well combined, add a little salt and pepper to taste.  This mixture is referred to as Duxelle and can be used in a wide variety of dishes.  Heat olive oil and butter in the same saute pan you used to sear the tenderloin.  Saute the Duxelle in the butter and olive oil until most of the moisture has evaporated and it seems sort of dry. 

In the meantime, roll out your puff pastry to approximately 1/4" thick and so that it is wide enough to wrap around your tenderloin.  Using your rubber spatula, evenly smear the Duxelle onto the puff pastry, leaving about 2" around all 4 sides.  Be sure not to use too much Duxelle.  It should be no more than 1/4" thick.  Using your hands, rub the dijon mustard all over the rested tenderloin in a thin layer.  Place the tenderloin in the center of the puff pastry and wrap the pastry around the beef like a package, bringing the short sides up first and then the long sides and sealing the edges together by lightly brushing and sticking with egg wash.  Trim any access puff pastry.  Place your wrapped wellington seam side down on a baking sheet, gently wrap with plastic wrap, and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Brush the entire wellington with egg wash.  Gently cut a few slits in the top of puff pastry to allow the steam to vent while cooking.  When the oven is ready, bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a probe thermometer inserted in the center of the beef reads 125 degrees.  (Insert your thermometer through a slit or on the underside of the wellington through the seam so you do not poke holes through your beautiful puff pastry).  Allow your wellington to rest approximately 10 minutes before service.  This allows the juices to come to rest in the beef.  If you cut into it too early you'll have a really soggy puff pastry.


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