Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Magic of Madeira & Beef

Like an alchemist revealing the secret of making gold… I’m going to share a cooking secret with you. Let’s talk about Madeira.

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 gave me a Eureka, “this is it” moment. The beautiful scent of age was there with a flavor that is deep and complicated and full of grace This is the wine of the old Ashley Wilkes’ South.
I had made a note of him and his company thanks to that article in 2007, and waited for the right moment to put it to use. This blog seemed a good place to start sharing my fascination with Madeira and using fine quality wines for cooking. You may say that a bottle of supermarket variety will do you just fine… but please believe me, you are wrong! Great older Madeira will make your dish remarkable. Would you use a drugstore chocolate bar in your favorite mousse? Would you use a gray tomato for your famous BLT? No!!!!
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 D'Oliveira Verdelho in my sauce for this Beef Wellington and my guests all agreed 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:

photo courtesy Mannie Berk

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).

Beef Wellington
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 egg
1 recipe for duxelle*
1 cup of beef glace de viande*
1/3 c Madeira (I used 1912 D'Oliveira Verdelho, But Charleston Sercial would be lovely)
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

Trim ends of mushrooms. Break stems and caps into small pieces. Finely chop the mushrooms in a food processor. Squeeze dry in a clean kitchen towel. Melt unsalted butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallot; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, 5 to 6 minutes.

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 carrot
1 onion
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

Butter layer

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.


Sarah said...

This is an amazing recipe. We did en croute on Daring Cooks but nothing even came close to the beauty of this meal. I will be bookmarking this for the future. Thank you! Your blog is amazing. You do so much research. It is very interesting.

Deana Sidney said...

Sarah, I told you I was impressed with your tortiere!! Please try the madeira... it is amazing with so many different things and The Rare WIne Company is such a great supplier! It takes the Wellington from the ordinary to the extraordinary!

Anonymous said...

This was so interesting and what a wonderful looking and sounding recipe. I enjoy learning the history behind the food with you.

Sarah said...

Grass is always greener, I guess. I will definitely be trying the fine madeira.

Deana Sidney said...

I am not a pastry person... yours was so much tidier!!! Let me know what you think about the Madeira!!!

food with style said...

oh that looks sooooooo good! we had a huge standing rib roast for xmas, i should be tired of beef, but your pic is proving that theory wrong!

Deana Sidney said...

I gotta tell you Jain, this was a great one... the sauce was wicked good.
I almost did a rib roast though... but my guy is fussy about bones! This beef was fab... beef is good! Long live beef (and Madeira!).

Faith said...

Madeira and beef are definitely the perfect match! And I love beef wellington, it's such an elegant dish!

Deana Sidney said...

Thanks Faith... we agree!

Pam said...

You took on such an endeavor and executed it perfectly! Lovely job. Dufour Puff Pastry, Les Trois Petit Cochons and Grass Fed Beef are tops in my book. You've sold me on Maderia. I have always used the 15.00 liquor store version,I now have to purchase an old bottle. Think I'll need a few new glasses too.
Met another NYU Alum, Sheila at Good Looking Home Cooking. She also lives in New York. Take a look at her blog. I told her about yours also!
Happy New year!

The Food Addicts said...

oh my goodness... beef wellington! that's something i haven't tried to make, but heard of it before. thanks for the recipe!

Trissa said...

Brilliant and inspired idea to use madeira for savory dishes! Thanks for sharing it with us. I can imagine you as a little girl stealing your grandfathers very old madeira! Your grandfather must have been really angry or had a good laugh! Or did he even find out?!?!

Deana Sidney said...

Pam>I'll check out the other NYu alum... you check out the madiera... honest, get theirs at Astor Wine or online from my links... you will thank me. As for the glasses... I think we need to bust into a museum for those babies although has gorgeous repros!

Food Addicts>glad to show you a new thing... it is an impressive dish for special occassions!!

Trissa> I was not caught! I hope you try the madiera... as I can't stop saying.. it changes everything it touches!

Barbara said...

Loved hearing the history of madiera. I will certainly go to the website to learn more.

As for Beef Wellington, I adore it! And your photo is brilliant.

Re: the problem with your getting my website. I had one other person a long time ago say she was having a problem, but worked it out. Nobody else has mentioned it. Don't know why one blogspot would cause a problem with another blogspot. Odd.

Deana Sidney said...

Thanks Barbara... You will love the madeira (and they are such a great company.
Tastespotting didn't go for the photo... but I just got my new 50mm lens.. let's see how that works out... new toys, New Year!!! Have a happy

Barbara said...

I have never tried Madeira. I can only imagine how divine a 1912 one was.

Anonymous said...

Great post and the beef wellington looks good Wishing you a very happy new year :)

Deana Sidney said...

Barbara> You must taste madeira... it is amazing stuff to drink and to cook with... once opened it lasts for ages!

Ellie>Thanks for the good wishes... the beef is delicious with the sauce!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I've always wanted to make a Beef Wellington nad this sounds like just the secret ingredient to use to make it out of this world. Thanks so much for sharing the secret! Your Wellington looks superb :)

Deana Sidney said...

Lorraine> I can't tell you enough about this madeira... it is awesome!