Venison Wellington with Duxelles of Mushrooms - Truly a Wild Game Recipe for Special Occasions
Updated: May 9
Here’s a nice dish to try when you’re expecting company and you have some prime, boned-out cuts of venison. It is a twist on Beef Wellington. In our version, though, there isn’t a pâté de foie gras beneath the crust. Instead, we use a Dijon mustard and a duxelles of mushroom with prosciutto. Check out the video! The goal is to get the finished product to be served once you have a golden-brown crust and a meat internal temperature between 130 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. We made lots of medium-well to well-done Wellingtons over the years, but practice taught a few things and reminds us that a lean venison doesn't cook like a fine loin of beef. Stay with me on the preparation narrative - it can be a finicky dish.
Here's how you do it!
* A large piece of backstrap or a bottom round, well-trimmed (about 1 ½ to 2 pounds with meat about 3.5 to 4 inches in diameter. )
* 1 tbsp olive oil (unneeded if not browning the meat)
* salt and pepper
* 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
* 8 to 10 pieces prosciutto
* 1 piece puff pastry (we used Pepperidge Farms but you can use homemade or another favorite brand), thawed
* 1 egg
Lightly salt and pepper the meat. Wrap in plastic wrap, press to shape the meat somewhat into a cylindrical shape, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 2 days. When ready to assemble, quickly sear the meat on all sides in a hot pan with oil - a couple second on each side. You do not want to cook the meat beyond a fast sear. Once seared, place meat on a plate and refrigerate until cool. (note – if all you have is a small diameter backstrap or roast, omit this step. You may overcook the meat.)
To assemble the Wellington, begin by laying out a piece of parchment paper about 16 inches long. Lay individual prosciutto slices on the paper, slightly overlapping them to form a rectangle that will cover the meat on all sides. You can lay another piece of parchment paper atop the prosciutto and use a rolling pin to further make it lay nice and even. Then, carefully spread the duxelles on the prosciutto, leaving a border of about an inch. If the duxelles mixture is too cold, warming it slightly in the microwave makes it easier to spread evenly. This layer should be between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick.
Remove meat from the refrigerator and pat it dry. Spread a thorough, but not overly thick, layer of Dijon mustard on all sides. A pastry brush works well for this. Place the brushed meat at one edge of the prosciutto. Then, using the parchment paper to assist, carefully wrap the meat in the prosciutto/duxelles. Roll the whole roast, leaving the paper behind. Tuck the prosciutto ends in and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or, ideally an hour or more. Heck, you could even refrigerate it overnight. A small roast may even benefit from a quick stay in the freezer. Remember, you don't want the meat to overcook before the puff pastry gets nicely browned.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Beat the egg to make an egg wash. Lightly flour a cutting board and roll out the pastry to a size more than large enough to completely encase the meat. Don't make it paper thin, but leaving the pastry thicker than 1/8-inch after rolling is way too wide. Trim to a rectangle, saving the scraps for decoration. Place the prosciutto-wrapped meat in the center of the pastry. Wrap the pastry around the meat, overlapping by a ½-inch to 1 inch. Brush the egg wash along both edges and then press them together to seal - the egg wash serves as a glue to help hold things together. The video nicely demonstrates this.
Turn the meat over, seam side down. Press and flatten the pastry on the ends, trimming any excess, and folding underneath, again using the egg wash glue. Ensure all seams are completely sealed to prevent liquid leaking from the roast. Use the extra pieces of pastry to create decorative patterns atop the roast. Be creative and have fun! Brush the entire roast with egg wash and place on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Elevating the meat allows the underside to cook better and lets any escaped juices drop below so they don’t make the pastry soggy.
Cook for about 25 – 30 minutes, until the pastry is a light golden brown. Use a meat thermometer to check the meat's internal temperature, inserting the probe somewhere near a decoration to disguise the intrusion. Ideally, the meat is about 100 to 110 degrees. The meat will continue to cook, sometimes rapidly depending on its thickness, after removal from the oven. Let the Wellington rest for 10-15 minutes, or until the meat registers 130 to 135. Slice carefully with a serrated knife and serve with the sauce.
A final cooking note: getting the meat to the desired "doneness" while also getting a nice golden brown puff pastry is a challenge – much comes into play: the size and cut of meat, how much fat the meat has and more. Sometimes you may cook it a little longer than you’d like. Try not to get a finished product above medium. Medium well or more will affect the flavor and quality of the venison. That meat thermometer is your best friend with any Wellington when it comes to getting a moist, tender product. A great brandy cream sauce is your friend when it comes to covering up and overly cooked specimens. Even a less-than-perfectly-cooked Wellington tastes pretty doggone good!
Duxelles of Mushrooms
* 12 to 16 ounces mushrooms depending on size of roast (any variety or a mixture – white mushrooms are fine)
* ½ onion
* 1 garlic clove
* 2 tbsp butter
* salt & pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1 tbsp dry sherry
Finely dice vegetables by hand or in a food processor. Cook the mushrooms and onion over medium heat in a large skillet they render their liquid. Add the garlic, butter, salt, pepper and thyme and cook, stirring often, until soft and the mushrooms have given off their liquid and it has evaporated. This may take 20 or so minutes. Because of the butter, the mixture won’t look completely dry but you want it to have an almost paste-like consistency. Stir in the sherry, then cook and stir another couple minutes until it evaporates. Set aside to cool. This can be made a couple days in advance and refrigerated until used.
Brandy Cream Sauce
* 2 tbsp butter
* 2 tbsp flour
* ¼ cup brandy
* 2 cups beef broth
* 1 cup cream
* black and white pepper to taste
Melt the butter over medium low heat and stir in the flour. Cook, stirring for a couple minutes - you're making a light roux. Stir in the brandy and the broth. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until reduced by half. Stir in the pepper and cream, and cook until thickened into a sauce consistency. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
Another Sauce Alternative
Instead of a brandy cream sauce, you can also use make a flavorful sauce in your roasting pan after removing the Venison Wellington. Simply add a cup or two of beef broth, 1/2 cup of red wine and rosemary or tarragon to the pan. A tarragon-flavored sauce often works well with the mushrooms and Dijon flavors around the meat. Heat it over medium to medium-high heat, scraping any flavorful pan drippings into the mixture. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until liquid is reduced by half. If the sauce is bitter, add sugar to balance it out. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk together one teaspoon softened butter and one teaspoon flour. Whisk this mixture into the sauce a little at a time until you reach desired consistency.
Roasted Winter Vegetables
* 3 large parsnips, halved or quartered lengthwise depending on thickness
* 6 carrots, halved lengthwise if extremely thick
* 10 to 12 Brussel sprouts, trimmed if needed
* Salt and/or lemon pepper to taste
* 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
The vegetables can be mostly cooked ahead and then finished in the broiler while the meat rests. This ensures everything works out timing-wise. For this approach, preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Wash (but don't peel) the vegetables. Toss with oil and seasonings and bake for 30 to 45 minutes. We want them tender with a hint of crispness accented by caramelizing of the sugars in the parsnips and carrots. Just before serving, toss them again and quickly finish under the broiler to reheat and brown. The vegetables can be roasted in the oven with the Wellington but be careful -- they could burn under the high heat.
Dinner is Served
Slice the Wellington an inch to an inch-and-a half thick and serve with sauce. Serve with roasted winter vegetables and potatoes. If you enjoy wine, this dish commands a full-bodied red such as a Burgundy or Bordeaux, an Argentine malbec or South African pinotage. Some Spanish tempranillos also work well.