What will be your Valentine dinner this year? A burger like you’ve never had before. Beef Wellington for dummies. The bridge between posh nosh and pub grub.
How to make a posh meal out of bog-standard burgers
I came up with this dish while making my vegetarian celeriac wellington. Since I am largely a meat-eater, I was slightly underwhelmed by my celeriac centrepiece – very nice, lovely and all but, you know, still celeriac in the middle.
But beef wellington is one hell of a fussy, cheffy palaver. You want to get it just right and you only have one chance. Beef wellington with the pricey fillet steak inside overcooked and dull grey, or completely raw, that’s a massive fail. The research on the matter boggles your mind: sear the beef, then freeze it, or freeze the made-up wellington, or just chill. Too much; and who can afford to waste beef fillet on trials and tests? Not me.
So here’s my solution: burger wellington, wellington for dummies. All you really need to cook in this recipe is a skilletful of mushrooms. And even the wrapping up in pastry doesn’t call for a sculptor’s touch: gaps and cracks underneath are recommended.
How to cook the burger without cooking the burger
Firstly, let’s be honest: a burger even from a good butcher’s is never going to be a fillet steak. Secondly, a good burger is charred and crisp on the outside which for this project it’s completely irrelevant. I want it cooked completely, properly through, but to look like it’s pink.
Low temperature cooking
My favourite method comes into its own and it’s the perfect solution. And it couldn’t be easier: oven set to minimum and the patties sitting happy in there for an hour. They emerge perfectly cooked, but still looking fresh.
Duxelles? What duxelles?
The traditional mushroom duxelles topping/filling for beef wellington is miles too complicated. And precisely the same result tastewise will be achieved by sauteing a few chopped up mushrooms until caramelised. Bags of umami, none of the hassle.
Crispy fried shallots are the secret cupboard weapon
This recipe is all about cutting corners but I would use the shallot flakes even in a proper, fancy, sophisticated beef wellington. They are superb to sprinkle, garnish, top and fold in for a bit of crunch and an oniony whiff. Frankly, I’d be happy to fill my pastry with them only, forget the beef and mushrooms.
And if they tell you that you should make your own at home? Not the same; plus you never have any fresh shallots at hand. The flakes are available from Oriental supermarkets and probably some standard ones too.
Burger wellingtons: my new go-to date dinner
To zip it up: there isn’t really much work in this recipe at all. The burgers cook in the oven, the pastry and the shallot flakes are ready-made and the mushrooms – oh puhleeeze, that can’t be easier. To be fair it all takes a while because the individual ingredients need to cook and then cool but it’s not like you have to watch them cool down. Two minutes – burgers in. Five minutes – ‘shrooms fried. And the pastry wrapping is fun. Plus you can refrigerate the made ahead, wrapped parcels.
The whole package (the whole wellington) is honestly delicious. Who doesn’t like a good burger? And this is a fancy-restaurant edition. If you’re not very proficient in the kitchen, this will make you feel superbly smug. And for those who get slightly intimidated by high-class food – why, it’s just a burger!