Red Wine Reduction

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A reduction is just that – a volume of liquid that is reduced by evaporation. The wonderful thing is that when a liquid, like wine, is reduced, it almost becomes like a syrup. So when you choose to make a reduction, you don’t need any flour like when you make a gravy. Reductions are velvety smooth.

I wanted to make a reduction to serve with the beef Wellington I made for a special dinner. With a reduction, there are so many choices, but I’ll share what I chose to do, plus mention some alternatives as well.

Red Wine Reduction

Skillet in which the 2 beef filets were seared, with leftover olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 purple onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Beef broth, about 2 cups
Red wine, about 1 cup
1 teaspoon beef demi-glace

Heat up the skillet over medium heat. Add the butter to the oil in the skillet. Begin by sautéing the onions until they’re soft, about 4 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook them while stirring for almost a minute.

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Pour in the broth and wine. Let the liquid come to a boil, then turn down the heat so that the liquid just barely boils. I recommend that you keep a close eye on this process because you don’t want to lose the goodness that’s in the skillet by accident.
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After about 45 minutes or so, this is what’s left in the skillet. Magic!
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Add the demi-glace and stir it into the warm reduction. Remove the skillet from the stove and pour the reduction into a small serving bowl. The reduction can be reheated later in the microwave if you need to wait to use it.

There are a few options, like I mentioned. First, I had to choose between serving the reduction as is, or puréeing it. It would be a little thicker puréed, but still silky smooth, but I decided to leave it as is; I didn’t mind the texture.

Taste the reduction before you serve it, to make sure it’s to your liking. If you ever want a reduction made with red wine seasoned beyond salt and pepper, some dried thyme is lovely in it.

There are other options with the liquids used in reductions. Regarding the broth, home-made is best, but I unfortunately had none on hand. I thought about reducing the purchased broth by itself first, since they’re terribly watery, but I decided it would be fine added along with the wine. And it turned out fine since I probably lost about 3 cups of liquid during the reduction process.

Regarding alcohol, you can also use Madeira or dry sherry or Marsala in reductions. Even a little cognac adds some zing. You won’t get that explosive alcoholic flavor after the liquid reduces, so don’t worry about that. And if you don’t want a dark-colored reduction like I did for the beef, you could also choose a lighter-colored chicken stock and white wine instead. It will still make a richly flavored reduction.

Like I mentioned, I served this reduction along with the beef Wellington. I didn’t want to drizzle the sauce on the top of the pretty pastry, so I just placed some directly on the dinner plate. As the plate is also brown, it’s a bit hard to see! The reduction almost looks watery in the photograph, but it was fairly thick, actually.

reduction

Other ingredients can be used for the aromatics as well. Shallots, for one thing, and garlic is always optional. You could also add celery and carrot dice to this sauce as well. I’ve sometimes included a sun-dried tomato as well, one that’s stored in oil, not the dry kind, to add some flavor and texture to a reduction that is puréed.

note: When I first started making the reduction, I had it in my mind that I would be blending it up at the end, but I changed my mind. I would have preferred to have more finely chopped both the onions and garlic beforehand. But in the recipe I’ve listed finely-chopped onions, and diced garlic, which is what I should have done. That’s probably why the onion and garlic pieces look bigger – they are!

Beef Wellington

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I made beef Wellington for my husband and myself for our 32nd anniversary in January. The idea to make this for our dinner came from watching Masterchef Junior on TV.

There was an episode where the little kids were challenged to make beef Wellington, a Gordon Ramsay signature dish. But judge Ramsay didn’t show them how to make it. He simply cut through a perfectly cooked beef Wellington and told them how to make it. My brain would have shut down part way through his instructions, especially without any visuals. But these kids proceeded to tag team their way through their own beef Wellingtons, plus two sides. And most all of their beef Wellingtons came out perfectly.

So my husband turns to me at some point and says, “Those look so good. Why haven’t you ever made them?” And I really had no answer. It made me think, and I think that I thought that all beef Wellington contained liver paté, which my husband refuses to eat. But I learned that night that duxelles, essentially diced, sautéed mushrooms, can be substituted for the paté. So I figured it was about time to make Wellington. And it was well worth it!

I’ll show you what I did to make these beef Wellingtons, the Gordon Ramsay way. And if you didn’t catch Masterchef Junior the first time around, watch it next time it’s on. The kids are lovely, and act so much kinder than their adult counterparts on Masterchef or any other cooking shows.

Beef Wellington is quite extravagant, but it’s just the sum of many parts, each of which is not difficult at all to prepare. I’ll discuss all of these parts next.

Beef Wellington
This recipe serves 2, with leftovers

Crêpes: I’ve posted on making crepes, so I won’t bother with a tutorial. You only need a total of four for these two beef Wellingtons. Crêpes are used to absorb any beef juices that leak out of the filets. This keeps the puff pastry from getting soggy!

crepes

Duxelles: Duxelles is a name for finely-diced sautéed mushrooms. The ones I made for the beef Wellington aren’t super finely diced; I wanted a little more texture. I made duxelles in a post called Crêpes Fourées. For those crêpes, I used a combination of fresh and dried mushrooms. For the Wellingtons, I used only fresh mushrooms. Either will work.

The duxelles recipe I used for the beef wellington:
1 stick of unsalted butter
3 finely diced shallots
1 pound finely-chopped fresh mushrooms
Salt, pepper
Chopped parsley

Sauté the mushrooms and shallots in the butter for at least 5 minutes, over medium heat. Season, then stir in the chopped parsley. Place in a colander over a bowl.

I used no liquid in the mushroom recipe whatsoever, although you can tip in a little marsala or madeira if you wish. Just make sure to drain the mushrooms in a colander before beginning the beef wellington. And whatever you do, always save the mushroom liquor to use in any kind of sauce or reduction. Check out this post if you’ve never prepped mushrooms before.

duxelles

Prosciutto: I used 2 thin slices of Prosciutto in each of the two beef wellingtons.

Puff Pastry: I used purchased puff pastry that I thawed overnight in the refrigerator. There are two pieces in the box of puff pastry and I used both for the beef Wellingtons; there was plenty of pastry, but I couldn’t have wrapped any more filets.

Miscellaneous Ingredients: Dijon mustard and 1 egg.

Putting together the beef Wellington:

Have your meat sliced off of a tenderloin if you’re doing the butchering yourself. I cut two – 8 ounce filets, using a scale. It’s important that they’re the same size, for cooking purposes. Season the filets with a little salt and a generous amount of crushed black pepper.

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Pour some olive oil, about 3 tablespoons, in a skillet over high heat. Sear both filets on both sides. You’re just searing the meat to get some caramelization. You’ll be using the same skillet to make the wine reduction later. Don’t wash your skillet!

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Remove the filets from the skillet and place them on a plate. Place a teaspoon or so of Dijon mustard on each filet. Using a pastry brush, brush on the mustard. Mr. Ramsay, of course, recommends English mustard, but I don’t own any. A tidbit of info from Mr. Ramsay – it’s essential to brush the mustard on the filets after having just been seared. Supposedly mustard won’t get absorbed by the meat once it’s cooled off.

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The next thing to do is roll out the pastry dough that has remained chilled.

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Roll it into a kind of circle, using a little bit of flour and a good rolling pin. Place a crêpe in the middle of the dough, top with a layer of duxelles, then top them with the prosciutto.

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On top of the prosciutto place the mustard-brushed filet, mustard side down.
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I cut a little circle out of the remaining two crêpes and placed those on top of the filets. These will eventually be at the bottom of the beef Wellingtons.

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Then begin the wrapping process. Have one egg beaten well in a little bowl, and a pastry brush. The wrapping process was a little challenging, and it’s definitely harder than rolling the pastry around a whole tenderloin, with an easy one-seam fix. If you’ve ever wrapped a brie in puff pastry, this is similar, except for the fact that I like seeing the wraps of dough on the top sides of the brie. In this case, I wanted smooth tops for the beef wellingtons. I also didn’t want the pastry bottoms too thick.

It was also challenging for me to take pictures during the process. I already mucked up my camera with this one shot.

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Eventually, I got them both wrapped and sealed. Then I wrapped and stored them in the refrigerator.

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Bring the beef Wellingtons out of the refrigerator for at least an hour before you plan on putting them in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush the Wellingtons with the remaining egg mixture.

For the first time ever, I used a temperature probe that came with my oven. Right when I put them in, I pushed the probe in to the middle of one filet. I didn’t want to keep poking the poor things with my meat thermometer. And this thing worked beautifully!

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The 2 Wellingtons took only 20 minutes to cook; I removed them from the oven when their internal temperature reached 125 degrees. This is for rare beef. From the photos, you can tell we like our beef rare.

I removed the beef Wellingtons from the oven and put them on a plate. They would have continued cooking if I’d left them in the hot baking dish. They rested for 15 minutes, during which time I got my vegetables together and heated the red wine reduction.

I placed some of the hot red wine reduction on two plates, and topped them with the beef Wellingtons. (Red wine reduction in a future post.)

reduction
Then I added peas à la Française as our simple but delicious vegetable side.

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I must say, beef Wellington is a fabulously extravagant meal. You can taste all of the parts – the beef, the mushrooms, the prosciutto, and a hint of Dijon mustard.

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My pastry wrapping could have been better. It should have been a tighter fit. But fortunately that didn’t affect the flavors!

Note: this recipe is for 2 individual Wellingtons. Many recipes utilize whole chunks of tenderloin, from which slice’s are cut.

verdict: Sure, this meal took a while to prepare. But yes, I’d make beef Wellington again. And it’s already been requested of me for my husband’s upcoming birthday!