Beef Wellington, or in this case, Elk Wellington, can appear overly-complicated to someone experiencing it for the first time. Admittedly, there are several steps to get to the finished product. However, those steps are not too tricky and the ingredients are readily available. So, if you want to take your wild game cooking to the next level (or simply want to produce something special to impress your non-hunting friends), elk wellington is a great option and a tasty way to utilize those hard-earned tenderloins.
Grapeseed or Canola oil
Mushrooms 1lb. (any kind will do)
Shallots x 3
Garlic x 4 cloves
Butter ½ stick
Bourbon 1 liter (a couple of ounces for cooking, the rest for drinking)
All-purpose flour ½ cup
Milk ¼ cup
Water ¼ cup
Salt - pinch
Butter 2 tbsp
First, you’ll need an elk tenderloin. Hopefully, you’ve got one in the freezer and already thawed out in the fridge. Otherwise, this first step might take a while. I trim off the ends of the tenderloins to ensure even thickness and even cooking throughout. Salt your tenderloin well on all surfaces and set it out to come to room temperature.
While the meat is coming to room temperature, get started on your duxelles. Don’t let the fancy name intimidate you. It’s just a finely chopped (minced) mixture of mushrooms and a few other ingredients. Start by finely chopping your mushrooms, stems included, and set aside. Then, melt a half stick of butter in a pan and heat until butter just starts to brown. Add four finely chopped cloves of garlic, three finely chopped shallots, and cook on medium heat until the shallots become translucent.
Now, add your minced mushrooms in with the garlic and shallots, salt generously, and cook the mixture down into a paste. At this point, add a healthy dash of bourbon and continue simmering for a few more minutes before removing from the heat.
It’s time to sear your tenderloin. Preheat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of a high heat oil like grapeseed or canola then sear the tenderloin on all sides. The idea here is to get a good, fast sear without actually cooking the tenderloin so be sure not to allow the meat to linger in the skillet too long. After searing, and while still hot, give the tenderloin a healthy slathering of dijon mustard on all surfaces and set aside to cool.
Now, it’s crepe time. The idea of making crepes intimidated me at first, but it turned out to be as easy as making pancakes. In a mixing bowl, add your egg, milk, flour, water, and salt. Mix to combine the ingredients, melt the butter in a non-stick pan, pour just enough batter to swirl around and thinly coat the bottom of the pan, and proceed as you were making large thin pancakes. Depending on size, you’ll need two or three of your crepes laid out and overlapping a bit. Imagine a long tortilla you’ll use to wrap your tenderloin.
On top of your crepe tortilla, place a layer of prosciutto end to end covering the entire surface. Now scoop all duxelles you prepared onto your crepe/prosciutto tortilla thing and spread it out over a large enough area to evenly surround your tenderloin. Lay your tenderloin on top of all of this and very gently roll it up so it’s completely encased and your minced mushrooms are evenly distributed around your tenderloin.
Finally, take the whole package and carefully, but tightly, wrap it in clear plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for about an hour.
Roll out a sheet of puff pastry (I used store-bought), brush with egg yolk, and once again carefully roll up your tenderloin package. Trim off any excess pastry and pinch closed any openings so you have a tight, clean wrap. Now, if you like, you can get creative with your excess pastry. The classic is a latticework overlay. I chose an elk antler, but you can do anything you like. Or, if you’re not the artistic type, nothing at all. Finally, brush the whole thing with egg yolk, salt generously with coarse salt, and place in a 425-degree preheated oven.
Now, I don’t have an exact time for you here. I simply kept a close eye on it until it reached a beautiful golden brown and, when I cut into it, it was perfectly medium-rare. Remember, less is more with wild game, and overcooking a hard-earned prime cut like an elk tenderloin is (well, should be) a crime.