Sometimes I want to make a dish that pulls out all of the stops, to wow even myself. I watch a variety of cooking shows, some showcasing professionals and others, home cooks just like me. They can turn out some amazing things that look difficult as well as delicious. I want to be able to do that. I want to try something that may appear to be challenging and see if it actually is.
I had a lot more time on my hands this week and decided to take a challenge. I wanted to make a Wellington. A log of meat wrapped in puff pastry.
If you listened to my podcast episode with my brother you know that we talk about food….a lot. So you can probably imagine he was the first person I called with my grand schemes. He asked what I was going to put in the pastry besides meat, he was astounded that I had not even thought that far. Apparently, I couldn’t just wrap some meat in bread and call it a day.
So I didn’t.
1.3 LB Pork Loin (This is the prepackaged size I bought, not a hard weight)
½ Stick Butter
Salt and Pepper to Taste
10 Basil Leaves
1 Sheet of Puff Pastry
Zest of 1 Orange
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
¼ Tsp Ground Clove
Small Handful of Dried Cranberries
1 Egg Yolk
½ Medium Onion, Sliced
3 Tbsp Butter
¼ Tsp Salt
6 Oz Red Wine
Like I stated in the ingredients list I ended up purchasing a prepackaged pork loin and that was the weight listed on the package. By all means, it is not a hard weight, you don’t need to go to the butcher and ask for a 1.3LB pork loin, round up or round down.
Before we begin, take your pork out of the refrigerator, rinse it, and pat it dry. We need our meat to be at room temperature.
Pork is a tricky thing to work with, it can dry out extremely fast if you do not prepare it well or properly tend to it as it cooks. Normally to avoid a dry hunk of pork I advise dropping pads of butter over top during the cooking process. The butter then seeps into the meat and keeps it moist.
Since we are going to be wrapping the meat in pastry we cannot do this. So we need to take as much precaution as we can before we have to wrap it.
Butter is still your answer. Not just plain butter, herb butter.
Chop your basil leaves or pulse them in a food processor then using a fork mix in room temperature butter, pepper, and salt until combined.
This is why we need to make sure our meat is warm and dry, if we try to spread our butter onto cold meat it will solidify again and fall right off in patches. If it is wet you will have a hell of a time spreading the butter around.
Cover the whole loin in your herb butter, massaging into the meat.
Preheat your oven to 400℉, placing a rack in the center.
Heat up a cast iron skillet until a bead of water bounces across the surface. Gently place the loin in the center and sear for three minutes. Sear all sides of three minutes to brown the meat.
Once you are finished remove the loin from the pan and place on a cutting board or dish. Allow to cool then place into the refrigerator. This next step I definitely would not have thought of unless I had seen it before, even though it makes perfect sense. The loin needs to be cold before you wrap it in your pastry. If it is in any way warmer then the pastry the underside of the pastry will sweat and slide right off as it cooks instead of adhering to the meat.
Makes sense, right?
So do not skimp on the cooling process, do what I did, pour yourself a glass of wine and talk to your guests.
While it is cooling and you are sipping wine and chatting you can prepare the pastry.
Remove from box and unroll, leave on parchment paper so it does not stick to the counter. I wanted to go with winter flavors so I sprinkled the dough with fresh orange zest, brown sugar, ground clove, and stuck dried cranberries into the dough. I do mean stick, you will have to push the cranberries into the raw dough otherwise when it is time to wrap they will fall all over the place.
Once the meat is sufficiently cool it is time to wrap! Place the log in the center of the sheet. Fold the ends over the butts of the loin then tuck the sides up, crimping the edges where they meet. I will be honest, I didn’t fold in the prettiest of ways, but it got the job done. We also want the pastry to be snug against the meat, so (without tearing) pull the wrapping tight.
Brush the pastry with an egg wash which will help it get a lovely golden color in the oven.
Set on a foil-lined cookie sheet and place into the middle of your preheated oven to bake for 30 minutes. Pork cooks roughly 25 minutes per pound (remember we took some time by searing the meat and my loin is a bit over a pound) and if you have a meat thermometer the inside should register about 160℉.
Remember that pan we seared our pork in? I really hope you weren’t proactive and decided to wash it right away. Because we are going to want to use up all the fantastic drippings that are now coating the bottom of the pan. All that flavor ready to be used!
While your meat is cooking it is time to pay attention to the beautiful drippings left over in the pan. Turn the stove to medium heat and once warm add onions, salt, and extra butter. Stir occasionally. When onions are translucent add wine and cook down for about 10 minutes until a viscous sauce has formed.
Present your glorious Wellington and marvel at your accomplishments! Also, come to terms that there will be no leftovers. Use a serrated knife to carefully slice and not rip the pastry as you serve. Top with some onions and enjoy!