My favorite job during my under-grad years was my brief stint as a cook at the local restaurant. The place claimed to be Mediterranean, but judging by the amount of steak I prepared, it catered more to the tastes of the locals. There are a few vital lessons I learned in that kitchen:
First, hold the knife correctly. If you’re not using a knife that has been sharpened recently, or if you are cutting against yourself, you will get loudly cussed out. I learned this my very first day while dicing shallots.
Second, the only time food will taste perfect is when it is in season and grown by your neighbors. My college was in a fairly rural environment, so it was normal to find yourself preparing food for the farmers who grew it—nearly all produce we served was locally grown. No matter how popular our carrots were, we never had them in the spring or summer.
Third lesson… everything tastes good in puff pastry. One night when we couldn’t come up with a special, we decided to do a blue cheese burger in puff pastry. We sold out in just over an hour.
I’ve graduated now and moved out of town. The restaurant changed names and menus. Thank goodness puff pastry will always be there.
This is my favorite application of puff pastry. It requires little work and gets big wows. The puff pastry can be homemade and I’ve included the recipe below, but more often than not, I choose to use store bought. The mushroom sauce is delicious in its simplicity and still manages to maintain its richness. Most of the time there is blue cheese on top, but most members of my family dislike the flavor. However, I encourage you to try whatever cheese you want, just make sure it doesn’t melt too much, like cheddar would, and that it doesn’t over power the rest of the dish, like cheddar again. Basically, don’t try cheddar. Any white, crumbly cheese should be just fine. Also you can make this ahead of time and store it in the fridge for about 12 hours in advance. Just follow the recipe until you are supposed to brush egg wash on the finished folds. Don’t do this now, do it right as you’re about to put it into the oven.
32 oz fresh mushrooms
1/3 cup white wine
In a food processor, pulse the mushrooms until finely diced.
Over medium heat, reduce mushrooms until water has evaporated. When the pan is dry, add in wine. (I suggest choosing a wine that you will be drinking at the meal.) Continue to cook until wine has been reduced.
Take mushrooms off of the heat and allow to cool. This can be saved for any sandwich, so if you make extra, save it.
1 puff pastry sheet (available in frozen food section)
4 5-oz steaks
Salt & pepper
Dash of paprika
6 Tbsp mushroom topping
1 Tbsp water
Preheat oven to 450oF.
Thaw out puff pastry and cut the sheet into four squares. On a lightly floured surface, roll out squares until roughly 8 in x 8 in. Layer between pieces of parchment paper and keep in the fridge while searing the meat.
Season steaks with spices and sear in a pan, over medium heat, and flip when browned (you can also grill…but the grill was outside). Let rest for a moment.
Prepare puff pastry by brushing all four sides with an egg wash (beat the egg with the water). Place steak in the middle of the square and top with mushrooms. Fold in corners of the puff pastry, similar to an envelope. *Now is the time to refrigerate if you wish*
Transfer to a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and brush seams of wellington with egg wash.
Bake for roughly 17-20 minutes, rotating halfway through. The finished product will be a beautiful golden color.