29 August 2011

Eats: wellies

When it comes to food, Mr. P and I have fairly simple tastes. Sure, he appreciates a good steak (which I can’t cook) and I appreciate a tasty, time-consuming risotto (which I don’t cook). But for the most part, we eat those things on special occasions – specifically, when we go out to eat so I don’t have to cook them, duh – while eating more basic foods daily. We’re okay with simpler foods, like ground beef and chicken, common fruits and vegetables, filling out dishes with basic grains. And that’s good because it’s definitely gentler on our budget.

That’s half the story behind this dish, which is one I made up myself (though I’ve noticed it’s been done elsewhere). The other half of the story comes from the various Gordon Ramsay cooking shows that Mr. P watches. One night, the contestants had to make Beef Wellington, which is basically a slab of beef and mushrooms wrapped in puff pastry. I thought that sounded good – except for the mushrooms, which give me texture issues... and considering my poor track record with beef, that also didn’t sound promising...

So I completely dumbed it down to my level – and my budget. At first I called the dish Poor Man’s Beef Wellington, but that just sounded hokey and depressing. So I gave these little ground beef wellingtons a cuter name: wellies! And they even look like rain boots, if you squint and turn your head and then just give up and close your eyes and picture some wellington boots!

Here’s how I made the wellies. In lieu of puff pastry, I went with the Southern, inexpensive substitute:

Crescent rolls! Store-brand, probably. Because I am cheap. And reduced fat because I make everything taste automatically worse like that.

If it were up to me, mushrooms would be verboten in our house, I like the taste of mushrooms, but biting into them causes my gag reflex to kick in within 0.2 seconds. Mr. P loves them, though. So I went with our mutually-approved mushroom-containing food:

Store-brand. And reduced fat. Again.

I dumped that can in with one pound of browned ground beef, black pepper, and some dried onion (I can’t be bothered to chop onion). I meant to add some Worcestershire sauce, but I forgot. It would have been better with it. Under no circumstances, however, should you add salt. Cream soups have plenty of that already, thanks.

I mixed that all up:

And then I laid out a rectangle of crescent roll dough – two triangles, with the diagonal seam pressed together – on a piece of wax paper. The wax paper is important, because crescent roll dough likes to adhere to the work surface. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

Anyway, I smooshed out the dough, and then put one eighth of the ground beef mixture in the middle.

To seal these up, I first pinched together the narrow sides:

And then stuck all the corners together:

See? Totally looks like a rain boot! What, you’re not seeing it? Pssh.

Here’s where the wax paper comes in. When I tried to pick up the wellie at this point, it would stretch and deform in an effort to remain stuck to the plate where I was assembling it. The trick with the wax paper, then, is that you can pick up the wax paper, invert the wellie into your hand (don’t worry, it shouldn’t leak if you sealed it up), and peel the wax paper off.

Voila! I did this for each of eight wellies, using two cans of crescent roll dough.

Then put them on a baking sheet, at least an inch apart, and bake them for about 20 minutes at 375°F. Or so. Honestly, I started out with them snugly tucked in an 8x8 baking dish, and after 30 minutes only the tops were done. I transferred them to a baking sheet and they were done in 15 minutes. So I’d suggest going with twenty minutes, longer if necessary.

Not bad for a made-up experimental recipe! Although Chef Ramsay would probably not be impressed. Whatever, he’s perpetually cranky.

Verdict? Well, it’s clear that real Beef Wellington would be twenty times more fantastic, of course. For us, though? These were tasty – even with reduced fat – and included some of our favorite flavors: butter, beef, and mushrooms. And they have a cute name! Chef Ramsay should at least take that into account.