If you fancy an impressive and festive dinner but not the prolonged preparations, this is the meal for you. Lucinda Scala Quinn shares her secrets and shortcuts.
Have I got a present for you: a holiday-worthy dinner made in about an hour. The centerpiece of the meal is modeled after beef Wellington, a showstopper of yesteryear that starred on my mom's holiday table. In the original, fillet of beef coated with pate de foie gras and mushroom duxelles was swathed in puff pastry. It was like a present ready to unwrap, but with the hours of meal and other holiday prep, the cook's plate was mad full!
Deconstruct that classic and you get the flavors without the fuss. I embrace a few store-bought convenience items, make a premium butcher purchase, and take a little help from our friend the freezer. Mustard-rubbed meat shares oven time with simple shingled roasted potatoes. Thinly sliced mushrooms, sauteed and flavored a la duxelles, fill phyllo cups (and can be made ahead and frozen). While the cooked meat rests, the mushroom cups bake. Green beans studded with cranberries and a parsley salad make refreshing side notes to this rich, luxurious meal.
I made this meal at my mom's house in Massachusetts and pulled out my favorite serving dishes from her collections. In general, I like to mix, not match.
Beef tenderloin gets roasted with mustard, and mushrooms are baked in phyllo cups and topped with pate. When you section citrus, you get beautiful, tender slices -- and juice for the salad's vinaigrette. At this time of year, I let myself splurge on special ingredients; a sumptuous meal is like a gift to my family.
Mushrooms sauteed in butter and garlic recall the duxelles coating for beef Wellington. I layer paper-thin sheets of store-bought phyllo dough, cut and tuck them into muffin tins, and fill with the mushroom mixture. They come out of the oven golden brown and crisp and then get topped with a dollop of store-bought pate.
Dinner Is Served
A farmhouse table and big napkins arranged down the center like a runner are a rustic counterpoint to my mom's fancy china; combining styles makes antiques feel fresh and modern to me.