Eric Asimov got the ball rolling a few weeks ago in the New York Times with a piece declaring his newly found love of Madeira. He had just discovered it wasn’t just a dessert wine and that it was brilliant with savory dishes. This was preaching to the choir for me… I love Madeira and have been cooking with it for many years. Without knowing, I had discovered it as a child, poking around my grandfather’s cellar. I found a set of bottles with unreadable labels particularly tempting. I pulled a cork and took a whiff and then a swallow of sweet wine. It wasn’t until this year that I found out what I had liked was Madeira…very, very old Madeira. This is the stuff that dreams are made on.
I found that out via another New York Times article about Mannie Berk and his remarkable Rare Wine Company. Thanks to him I got a taste of a 1912
In the NYT article, Asimov said: “… in so many ways Madeira turns conventional notions of wine upside down. It wasn’t precisely brown. At the center it was a sort of honeyed amber. Extending to the edges it brightened into a reddish-orange, like a fantasy sunset. Maybe I just imagined these shades, just as after I took a sip I thought I heard music, and saw skyrockets and rainbows as the flavors rose through my mouth.”Mannie Berk is a Madeira fanatic. He began Rare Wine Co. in 1989 with an incredible haul of 400 cases of great old Madeira from Hedges & Butler’s London cellar in 1986. By 1998 he was blending his own Madeiras using 15% of 50-60 year old wine as part of the blend and issuing 3 styles: Charleston Sercial is the driest, New York Malmsey the sweetest and Boston Bual somewhere in between. I have tried them all and they are superb. At around $50 a bottle they are great for drinking and cooking (before you roll your eyes at the expense, just remember you use so little in a recipe!). For the extraordinary, go to the website and take a gander at the ancient Madeiras . I can tell you wow wow wow!!! Of course the wine is brilliant to drink.
However, with these magnificent specimens you can take your cuisine up into the stratosphere. I used some of the 1912 The fortified wine Madeira was popular with the American colonies thanks to a 1665 British policy that banned importation of European products unless they were shipped on British vessels from British ports. Fortunately, Madeira is not part of Europe. Although a Portuguese colony, the island of Madeira is off the coast of Morocco so it escaped the onerous shipping regulations and it’s product went straight to America. Its flavor owes a lot to shipping practices as well… it was discovered that the casks did best when shipped through the tropics. The heating (called estufagem) created the velvety texture that Madeira is known for and heating is part of the aging techniques employed today.
Madeira is so much a part of American history, it was used for the toast at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, probably using glasses like these:
Whether for drinking or using to add amazing depth to your food, Madeira is a new delight waiting to be discovered and once opened, it lasts forever! I used it to make my Beef Wellington. You should too!
1814 Portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence
The dish was named after Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington who won the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He was quite indifferent to food, so much so that his cooks often gave notice, despairing of using their culinary talents in his household. It is probably apocryphal then that he had anything to do with naming this fillet of beef, wrapped in puff pasty. Perhaps it was so called because in its larger version the finished product looks like a highly polished riding or Wellington boot.
For my version I have combined elements of many recipes from Martha, Cooks Illustrated and others to come up with one I liked. Everything was from scratch save the puff pastry( I used Dufour brand and it worked out splendidly) and pâté (I used Les Trois Petite Cochon’s Mousse du Perigord). If you would like to make the puff pastry from scratch, make a pound of puff pastry).
3-4 Lbs Beef tenderloin (I used grass-fed from Grazin Angus Acres). Place uncovered on a wire rack in the fridge for 24 hours before cooking to dry-age the beef, flip it once. Tie the beef with butcher’s string so it is a like a log if that hasn’t already been done.
2 Tb Olive oil
salt and pepper rubbed over the surface of the meat (around 2 t. of each)
8 oz pâté de foie gras ( smooth not coarse)
1 package Dufour puff pastry *or make your own puff pastry
1 recipe for duxelle*
1 cup of beef glace de viande*
1/3 c Madeira (I used 1912
4 T butter
Saute´ the beef in the oil in a searingly-hot cast iron skillet… letting it heat 4 minutes or so. Do 1 minute per side till the beef is thoroughly brown but not cooked.
Allow to cool completely, then remove the string and cover in pate´.
Roll out the pastry to a 12 X 15” piece (or do 2 of them and divide the pastry accordingly--2 will be easier to handle). Place on parchment paper. Cut off a little pastry to use as decoration. Place the duxelle over the pastry. Lay the meat on this and fold to cover. Brush with egg-wash on top and on the seam. Press to enclose. Dress the pastry with reserved dough cut in decorative shapes and adhere with the egg and brush the egg on the decorations as well.
Chill for 20 minutes or so before putting in the 400º oven for 20 minutes for rare. Turn in the oven every 10 minutes so the meat cooks properly. Let it rest 20 minutes before serving.
Warm the Glace de viande. Add the Madeira and the butter to melt and serve with the beef.
1 pound Portobello, shitake, mushroom mix
2 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
1/4 cup heavy cream (Milk Thistle Farm)
3 T Madeira (I used Boston Bual)
2 T finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp. marjoram
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Remove from heat. Stir in heavy cream, Madeira, parsley, and fresh thyme; season with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Let cool. Spread out to 8x10” on a piece of parchment paper, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (this can be done the day before).
Glace de Viande
2 lbs oxtails
2 lbs beef bones
1 T tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove
handful of parsley
2 c homemade chicken stock
1 C red wine
Roast bones, meat and vegetables for 50 minutes @ 450º. Deglaze with chicken broth, wine and add 2 quarts of water. Simmer for 5-6 hours. Cool and strain, discarding the solids. Chill and remove the fat. Simmer till reduced to 1 cup. You could buy 2 quarts of beef stock and reduce it yourself… just make sure it is salt-free if you do.
*Duck Fat Puff Pastry
1 lb + 3 ½ T (510g) cold unsalted butter
2 t (10 ml) Lemon juice
1 c (130g) bread flour
pinch of salt
3 c (400 g) bread flour (freeze it)
3 ½ T (55g) duck fat, frozen)
2 t Salt
1 c cold water (start with 3/4 and add as needed, you may not need a whole cup)
Mix the butter and the flour and lemon and salt into a paste, make a 6” square and chill on wax paper till firm
Knead very sparingly and refrigerate.
Make the dough into a rectangle and put the butter in the center in a diamond... fold the dough around it like an old envelope, bringing the 4 outer points to the center of the butter. If it’s warmed up, chill it. Otherwise roll it to a rectangle and fold it like a brochure and chill ½ an hour. Roll it out and do it again 6 times, resting for ½ an hour to an hour in the fridge each time (if you have a cold kitchen, less time is needed).
I left mine overnight after the 5th turn and made the last turn the next day. I rested it one more hour and rolled it out. You will have enough for 3-4. Freeze what you do not use.