Beef Wellington Tartare

What’s the opposite of a picky eater? Whatever it’s called, I’m that. But I won’t preach perfection. Black licorice, pretzels, grape juice, mint or, and here’s the kicker – puff pastry – don’t do it for me.

Beef Wellington should absolutely fall in my wheelhouse. Mushrooms, filet mignon, Dijon mustard, ham, Pâté, shallots & garlic. And it’s a gorgeous presentation to boot.

This sans-pastry recipe let’s me have my cake and eat it too. And the runny egg doesn’t hurt either.

Chances are you like puff pastry. I wish I did. But this dish encapsulates the essentials of the classic, with a lot less hassle. I’ve heard several horror stories – one that involved waking up at 6 AM to mince mushrooms. Another recalled a burnt pastry and undercooked beef situation.

Speaking of holiday cooking disasters, does anyone else watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation year-round and think it’s wildly underrated? I can recite that entire damn movie line-by-line. That dinner scene when Clark goes to carve the turkey Ellen’s sister put in the oven too early, and it cracks open with a puff of smoke, makes me howl every time.

I’ve eaten everything from grasshoppers to alligator to pig eyeball. And a lot more weird stuff that I can’t remember. I’ve liked every single one of those food experiences. But I still can’t stomach puff pastry. Go figure.

To quote cousin Eddie at that famous dinner scene…

Save the neck for me, Clark.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 2 tartare servings.

  • 1 6 oz. filet mignon, chopped finely
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 4 oz. foie gras Pâté, or another Pâté if preferred, sliced 1 inch thick
  • 4 oz. Parma ham or prosciutto
  • 2 quail eggs yolks
  • 8 button mushrooms, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 / 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, minced, plus additional for garnish
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Flatbread, for serving with the tartare

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Combine the beef, half the shallot, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Set in the fridge to marinate.
  2. On medium-low heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sauté the mushrooms, the rest of the shallot, garlic and thyme. Add a pinch of salt to render some of the liquid from the mushrooms.
  3. Once the mushrooms are lightly browned, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  4. To arrange the tartare, take a 3 inch round mold and press down on a layer of Pâté. This will be the tartare base. Brush 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard on top. Then add a slice of Parma ham or prosciutto of similar size and shape, followed by half the cooled mushroom mixture. Finally, top with half the chilled beef mixture, pressing down in the mold to form into a circular shape. Repeat for the second tartare.
  5. Place both plates, while still in the round mold, in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.
  6. Remove from the fridge, slide the tartares out of the round molds, and create a slight indent on the top with your thumb, sliding a quail egg yolk into the indent.
  7. Sprinkle with minced thyme, serving immediately alongside flatbread for scooping.

Deconstructed Salmon Ceviche with Mango & Avocado-Lime Crema

Salmon not only tastes great, but I hear it’s good for you too. Not that I care about the good for you part.

Raw fish – raw food in general – must feel so satisfying because you’re eating visceral protein in its most primal form.

In spite of my debilitating motion sickness while I’m on any small sea vessel, I’d spend a summer fishing every day in a heartbeat given the opportunity.

As a self-identified part-time resident of southwest Florida, our family has taken some deep sea fishing trips in the Gulf of Mexico.

A few years back on a rickety, 20-foot fishing boat, we reeled in what Captain Vince estimated to be a two to three hundred pound “goliath grouper.” It took 45 minutes to bring it up, and four of us had to take turns reeling it in using your average, run-of-the-mill fishing rod.

I still don’t understand how that pole didn’t snap in half.

When it emerged, it was like pulling a prehistoric whale out of the water. It was covered in barnacles and its eyes were the size of golf balls. It was staring right at us. I knew it was a fish, but it had the gaze of a human who’d been through hell and back.

When you catch a fish that size, and I assume that uncommon, you always cut the line and let them go.  It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen.

I love raw salmon, and smoked salmon, so I included both in this “ceviche.” I wanted to make this more of a meal as opposed to a bite-sized amuse-bouche, which is typically the serving size I get when ordering at restaurants here in D.C. I’m always left wanting more of it.

Avocados are the perfect counterpoint to salmon, according to everyone. And I agree. I was in Oahu when this recipe sprung into my head, thus the added mango component. Pineapple would’ve been more Hawaiian-y, I know.

Adding sweet to my savory is usually against my religion, but mango just felt right here.

And if you have a round mold, which I didn’t have, these ingredients would present gorgeously stacked over one another.

Now go forth, and eat your seafood the way it’s meant to be eaten – raw!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 1.

  • 6 oz. smoked salmon
  • 6 oz. wild salmon filet, sliced thin
  • 1 mango, sliced thin
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced thin
  • 2 avocados (ripe, but firm – you will only need 1 and 1 / 2 avocado for this recipe, so snack on the other half!)
  • 2 limes, 1 zested & juiced
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 stalk scallions, minced
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

O p t i o n a l

To go along with the fish, make a super-simple dipping sauce for added flavor – simply mix 3 parts soy sauce to 1 part sesame oil, adding a teaspoon or so of finely minced scallions.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Cut 1 avocado in half, carefully removing the core with a knife. Remove the outer peel, and slice the meat 1 / 4 to 1 / 2 inch thin. Drizzle the slices with lime juice to prevent browning & set aside.
  2. With a knife, cut the smoked salmon into 2 – 3 inch diameter circles. You could use a ramekin as well for a more uniform size.
  3. Slice the wild salmon filet thinly longways. If you put the salmon in the freezer for 10 minutes, it will make it easier to slice. Once sliced, cut the fresh salmon in a similar circular shape & size to the smoked salmon.
  4. Peel a mango, slicing the meat of the fruit from the tough core. With the pieces you have, cut them in a similar shape to the fish.
  5. Slice one jalapeno thinly, and mince the scallion.
  6. In the meantime, put the sour cream, juice and zest of one lime, half of the avocado, salt and pepper in a blender until finely pureed.
  7. To serve, spread a dollop of the avocado crema across the plate, arrange the avocados and then the smoked and fresh salmon. Top with sliced jalapenos and sprinkle with minced scallions.
  8. Serve alongside the optional soy dipping sauce & lime wedges for extra oomph.