Beef Wellington is a delicious entrée using the best and most tender cuts of steak available. This dish tends to be on many fine dining steakhouse menus. There are many theories behind the origin of Beef Wellington. Some say it was a French dish. It was called "fillet de boeuf en croûte" in France. Since the ties between England and France were not good at that time, an English chef changed the name to honour the famous Duke of Wellington and called it Beef Wellington.
Beef Wellington is said to be named after the winner of the Waterloo battle in 1815, Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. After defeating Napoleon, the Duke had become a national hero and the entire country was proud of him. One of his cooks, wanting to honour the Duke, created this dish to serve him one night at dinner. Surprisingly, he was indifferent to food inasmuch that the cooks in his kitchen left their jobs, saying that their talents were wasted on the Duke of Wellington.
There were a particular set of boots that were brown and shiny just like the beef after preparation. The beef was said to have looked and been shaped exactly like a Wellington boot. Wellington boots were military boots that were named after the Duke of Wellington himself. Therefore, it was only fitting that the dish would be named after him since the recipe came from his kitchen and looked like his boots, hence the name Beef Wellington.
Beef Wellington had a resurgence in the 1960s when the late President Richard Nixon was in office. As Beef Wellington was his favourite dish (although no one knows exactly why), the President stated that he would like to have his favourite dish served at every dinner he hosted while in office.
Beef Wellington is rare-roasted beef tenderloin coated with mushroom paste in puff pastry. A recipe for Beef Wellington calls for combining a beef tenderloin fillet that has been seared fillet of beef tenderloin coated with duxelles and pate then wrapped in puff pastry and before being baked. The finished Beef Wellington can be served as large cut or in individual servings.
There are two ways to prepare the beef for cooking. Either the whole tenderloin may be wrapped and baked, and then sliced for serving, or the tenderloin may be sliced into individual portions before the wrapping and baking. The beef tends to hold more of its juices when cooked whole although the individual portions will stay juicy if they are closely watched during cooking.
Today, even mushrooms and chicken livers are used in place of the puff pastry. The beef can be wrapped with almost anything of your choosing as long as it will stay wrapped during cooking. There are a variety of spices that can be added to Beef Wellington like curry, allspice, any grilling mix or ginger, to enhance the flavour or for a different version of the classic dish.
Another theory is that Beef Wellington is of Irish origin. In "Irish Traditional Food," Theodora FitzGibbon uses Irish spelling for the recipe by calling the dish Steig Wellington. While this theory has never been confirmed, it still appears in various cookbooks as part of the history of Beef Wellington.
Be careful of overcooking when preparing this dish. The more that the beef is cooked, the less juices the meat will have; the juices of the steak are what provide a lot of the flavour while complementing the mushrooms.