This Basque beef Wellington cook, charcoal grilled then wood fired, is a cook I did back in early 2018 before I bought a decent camera, so a few process photos are missing, or have been left out due to being low quality.
I wasn’t going to post this at all, but just stumbled across the photos I did take while searching for something else, and because I loved this meal so much, have decided to add it to my site regardless.
The reason I loved this cook so much is because it involved Basque beef filet. A very rare treat for me.
This is beef imported from Spain, coming from ex-dairy cows who are left to roam Basque country pastures after retirement from milk production, to forage and graze until between 8 and 12 years old before slaughter.
The meat is then dry-aged for a minimum of 30 days.
For me, filet is far down my list of best-tasting beef cuts. Yes, it’s tender, but it lacks flavor compared to so many cuts. Not so with basque filet, and particularly if cooked the way I do here!
The source of the meat and the dry-aging process results in an incredibly intensely flavored, extraordinary beef that is quite unlike anything I’ve tasted before or since. Basque (and the similar Galician) beef are two of my very favorite foods of all time. If you get the chance, give a try!
So yes, this meat was a bit special, so I wanted to knock up something that did it justice. I settled on a charcoal grilled, then wood-fired oven baked beef wellington, with a bone marrow canoe and sides.
Sounds good? It sure was!
Contents (Jump to Topic)
- 1 Notes on Process and Possible Tweaks
- 1.1 Making the Pancakes
- 1.2 The Duxelles
- 1.3 Sear Your Beef Filet Before Wrapping
- 1.4 Coat the Filet in Mustard Before Wrapping
- 1.5 Some Time in the Fridge Helps Keep the Shape
- 1.6 Use a Wood Fired Oven if You Can, a Grill if You Cannot
- 1.7 Lift the Wellington’s off the Oven Floor
- 1.8 Use a Wireless Thermometer for Ambient Oven Temp
- 1.9 Roast Bone Marrow Alongside the Wellingtons
- 1.10 Bake until Filet hits 125 F internal
- 1.11 Grill some Veg While the Wellington Rests
- 2 Printable Recipe Card
Notes on Process and Possible Tweaks
First of all, make sure you use quality ingredients because you want to do this expensive cut of beef justice! I used all organic ingredients and made the pancakes myself. However, I used shop-bought puff pastry…but more on that later.
Making the Pancakes
You can make the pancakes using the rising heat of your grill as it comes up to temp.
When I say ‘pancake’ though, I mean more like a crepe. The very thin style you get across Europe, and particularly France. It’s only purpose is to help soak up juices during cooking to prevent a soggy pastry bottom, not to add flavor or texture to the dish. So we only need a small square to put on the bottom of each Wellington.
A duxelles is a combination of mushroom and onions – or usually shallots – mixed with herbs, sauteed in butter to remove as much moisture as possible, and cooked down to a thick paste. The herbs used are usually thyme, sometimes parsley.
Duxelles is used as a stuffing in many dishes and can be added to soups and sauces. It’s a powerful tasting, umami filled, intensely mushroom flavored condiment that pairs well with, and adds a real flavor boost to beef. Hence it’s inclusion in a beef Wellington.
My top tip for the Duxelles used in a beef Wellington, is to saute it for at least 15 minutes. Most recipes say 10 minutes or less, but by cooking for longer, the maximum amount of moisture is removed, you have less chance of soggy pastry, and the extra cooking doesn’t change anything with the taste in my opinion.
Sear Your Beef Filet Before Wrapping
Filet is notoriously one of the least flavorful cuts of beef. Yes, it’s super tender, but in the flavor stakes, it’s lacking. Therefore, sear it before use in a Wellington.
As discussed in our article ‘what does sear mean‘, searing adds an extra layer of flavor due to the Maillard reaction, where super high heat reacts with the surface proteins to change it chemically and add great flavor.
DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!
And bonus points for using a charcoal grill, that adds even more flavor to the dish.
Coat the Filet in Mustard Before Wrapping
Flavor! As far as the eye can see…
An excellent tip I use is to smother the beef filet in mustard before wrapping. Beef and mustard is a classic pairing, and for me works really well in a wellington.
However, do not use too much!
The biggest ingredient in most mustards is water, followed by mustard seed flour and a few other ingredients. So we spend ages making sure our duxelles has as much water removed as possible, then add some water with the mustard. A bit contradictory, you might think?
So yes, use it sparingly, and use a good English or Dijon mustard, because they pack the most flavor for the least amount used compared to others. See how much I use in the photo below as a guide.
Some Time in the Fridge Helps Keep the Shape
A good trick to help keep everything together and keep its shape is to wrap up all the ingredients and keep them in the fridge for 30 minutes, before wrapping them in pastry.
So lay out some plastic wrap, place your ham onto the wrap making sure they overlap, spread out your duxelles across the ham, add your beef, and then roll it all up using the plastic wrap.
When done, you can twist up the ends and make a tight little sausage, before placing it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
This somewhat ‘sets’ the whole thing, so when you are ready to wrap it in pastry, you remove the plastic wrap and everything remains together and keeps a decent shape.
Use a Wood Fired Oven if You Can, a Grill if You Cannot
Using a wood fired oven adds yet another layer of flavor to the dish. I LOVE using my WFO, they aren’t just for pizza.
Seriously, as long as you can get a handle on temperature control, anything you can cook in your indoor oven, you can cook in your wood fired oven, and you get that crazy good wood fired flavor. Anything from roast meats and vegetables, to artisan breads, theya ll taste better – in my opinion – if cooked in the WFO.
If you do not have WFO, then use a charcoal grill. Charcoal imparts a lovely flavor to food and will elevate this dish above the norm if compared to a kitchen oven cook.
Just set up your grill to cook indirect at approximately 295 F / 200 C and you’ll be good to go.
Lift the Wellington’s off the Oven Floor
Whenever I roast or bake in my WFO, I always make sure to raise what’s cooking off the oven floor. Very often, the walls and floor of the oven are far hotter than the ambient air temperature, resulting in a burned bottom.
So place your Wellingtons on a wire rack if going the WFO route, otherwise you will burn the bottom!
Use a Wireless Thermometer for Ambient Oven Temp
Long gone are my days of guessing what the temperature is inside my wood-fired oven. I do have an infrared thermometer for reading surface temperatures, but for ambient air temperatures, you cannot beat a good wireless thermometer.
Can you see in the image below the short metal probe between the Wellingtons and the fire? This is measuring the oven’s ambient air temperature.
After a lot of practice, I’m able to hit target temps quite reliably these days.
But what I also do for insurance, is to keep a little fire going in my firepit next to the oven, so I can remove burning logs to lower the temp or take one from the fire and place into the WFO if I need to raise it, without having to wait for a fresh log to catch fire.
This does mean burning through more fuel in the firepit, but it works for me, and I get to enjoy standing near a lovely open fire while cooking in the WFO too.
Roast Bone Marrow Alongside the Wellingtons
Wellingtons, or more to the point puff pastry, tend to cook best at about 390 F, or 200 C. Bone marrow tends to roast best at about 430 F, or 220 C. So ideally, they would roast at different temps, which often means more than one oven.
However, if you place the bone marrows into the oven much closer to the fire than the wellingtons are, they will receive more radiant heat and cook quicker. So, that’s what you should do!
If you are going to cook this in a grill on indirect heat, then cook everything at the lower 390 F / 200 C temperature, and add 10 minutes to the bone marrow cooking time. All will work out well.
Bake until Filet hits 125 F internal
The usual advice for a Wellington is to bake it until the puff pastry is a beautiful golden color. However, depending on the thickness of the filet, and even the animal it came from, the cooking time can vary. If you cook to time, or to how the pastry looks, you may have an under- or -overcooked filet in the middle.
So the best method is to cook it to internal temperature.
Using an instant-read thermometer, I advise cooking the Wellington until the internal temperature of the filet reaches 125 F in the center.
Then, when you take it out of the oven to rest for 5 to 10 minutes, the internal temperature will rise close to 130 F and be a perfect medium-rare.
Grill some Veg While the Wellington Rests
Finally, since you had the grill lit anyway, you may as well use it to grill some veg, right?
For this cook, I grilled off some cherry tomatoes and some asparagus. However, I did warn very early on in this article that I was missing some process pictures, so a snap of asparagus is all I have. I’ll throw up a quick recipe for them next spring.