A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from February 13, 2009
Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington (or “Fillet of Beef a la Wellington") was served in New York City’s fashionable restaurants in the 1930s and 1940s, although today it can rarely be found anywhere. Beef Wellington is a beef fillet coated with foie gras and duxelles, and then wrapped in pastry and baked.

Most everyone agrees than the dish is named after Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. There is very little agreement about the dish’s place and date of origin.  “Fillet of beef, a la Wellington” was cited in the Los Angeles (CA) Times of October 28, 1903. There were other dishes made “a la Wellington” including fowl (1908, where “a la Wellington” meant “with chutney sauce, fried in oil") and baked bass (1919). “Filet d’Boeuf a la Wellington” was served at a Melbourne, Australia, restaurant in 1925. ‘Beef Wellington” was in a 1930 newspaper story about a California restaurant. 


Wikipedia: Beef Wellington
Beef Wellington is a preparation of beef tenderloin coated with pâté (often pâté de foie gras) and duxelles, which is then wrapped in puff pastry and baked.

A whole tenderloin may be wrapped and baked, and then sliced for serving, or the tenderloin may be sliced into individual portions prior to wrapping and baking. There are many spices you can add to enhance the flavor; some examples are curry, allspice, any grilling mix or ginger.

The origin of the name is unclear. One theory is that Beef Wellington is named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington but originated in Africa where Langley goats were common. Some have suggested this was due to his love of a dish of beef, truffles, mushrooms, Madeira wine, and pâté cooked in pastry, but there is no evidence to say for sure. Other accounts simply credit the name to a patriotic chef wanting to give an English name to a variation on the French filet de boeuf en croûte during a period when England was often at odds with France. Still another theory is that the dish is not named after the Duke himself, but rather that the finished joint was thought to resemble one of the brown shiny military boots which were named after him .

“Wellington” is sometimes informally used to describe other dishes in which meat is baked in a puff pastry; the most common variations being Sausage Wellington and Salmon Wellington.

Wikipedia: Duxelles
Duxelles, pronounced dook-SEHL, is a finely chopped (minced) mixture of mushrooms or mushroom stems, onions, shallots and herbs sautéed in butter, and reduced to a paste (sometimes cream is used as well). It is a basic preparation used in stuffings and sauces (notably, beef Wellington), or as a garnish. Duxelles could also be filled into a pocket of raw pastry and baked as a savory tart (similar to a hand-held pie).

Duxelles is made with any cultivated or wild mushroom, depending on the recipe. Duxelles made with wild porcini mushrooms will be much stronger flavored than that made with white or brown mushrooms. Fresh mushrooms are usually used, however reconstituted dried varieties are used as well. If you want a stronger flavor, use a mixture of both, heavy on the common mushrooms.

Wikipedia: Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, KP, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS (c. 1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852), was an Anglo-Irish soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the nineteenth century.

Born in Ireland to a prominent Ascendancy family, he was commissioned an ensign in the British Army in 1787. Serving in Ireland as aide-de-camp to two successive Lords Lieutenant of Ireland he was also elected as member of Parliament in the Irish House of Commons. A colonel by 1796, Wellesley saw action in the Netherlands and later India where he fought in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War at the Battle of Seringapatam. He was later appointed Governor of Seringapatam and Mysore.

Wellesley rose to prominence as a General during the Peninsular Campaign of the Napoleonic Wars, and was promoted to the rank of field marshal after leading the Allied forces to victory against the French at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. Following Napoleon’s exile in 1814, he served as the ambassador to France and was granted a Dukedom. During the Hundred Days in 1815, he commanded the Allied army which defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.

An opponent of parliamentary reform, he was given the epithet the “Iron Duke” because of the iron shutters he had fixed to his windows to stop the pro-reform mob from breaking them. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom under the Tory party and oversaw the passage of Catholic Relief Act 1829. He was Prime Minister from 1828-30 and served briefly in 1834. He was unable to prevent the passage of the Reform Act of 1832 and continued as one of the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement. He remained Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until his death.

Epicurious.com - Food Dictionary
beef Wellington
A FILLET of beef that has been covered with pâté de FOIE GRAS or DUXELLES, wrapped in pastry and baked.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Main Entry: beef Wel·ling·ton
Pronunciation: \-ˈwe-liŋ-tən\
Function: noun
Etymology: probably from the name Wellington
Date: 1951
: a fillet of beef covered with pâté de foie gras and baked in a casing of pastry

(Oxford English Dictionary)
beef Wellington n. (also Beef Wellington) Cookery a dish of fillet of beef (often coated with pâté) wrapped in puff pastry; cf. WELLINGTON n.2
[1939 D. ASHLEY Where to dine in Thirty-nine 53 Tenderloin of Beef Wellington... Larded tenderloin of beef. Roast very rare. Allow to cool and roll into pie crust… Slice in portions and serve with sauce Madire.]
1948 R. DANA Where to eat in N.Y. 217 For an entree let taste be your guide, because everything is excellent, from the *beef Wellington, the famous preparation with foie gras and truffles and seasoning of origanum, to the many chicken and sea-food specialties.
1994 D. PORTER Frommer’s Comprehensive Trav. Guide Portugal ‘94-’95 v. 96 The à la carte items are available at lunch and dinner and feature..lamb chops with mint sauce,..and beef Wellington.

Wellington, n.
Cookery.
[< the name Wellington, perhaps with reference to Arthur, first Duke of Wellington (see WELLINGTON n.1 and quot. 1968 at main sense).]
attrib. or (esp.) as postmodifier: designating a dish consisting of meat (originally and chiefly beef) wrapped in puff pastry, freq. having first been coated in pâté. Chiefly in beef Wellington n. at BEEF n. Additions
1939 D. ASHLEY Where to dine in Thirty-nine 53 Tenderloin of Beef Wellington... Larded tenderloin of beef. Roast very rare. Allow to cool and roll into pie crust… Slice in portions and serve with sauce Madire.
1968 T. FITZGIBBON Taste of Ireland 77/1 Wellington steak. A favourite of the Duke of Wellington. Excellent for those who like their steak underdone.
1989 She (BNC) Oct., Restaurant food veers from absurdly chi chi—as in elk Wellington—to savagely basic.
1999 Food & Wine Apr. 26/2 The English-trained chef..prepares African-British menus, from traditional British roast beef with Yorkshire pudding to crocodile curry with pappadams to ostrich Wellington with spiced rice.

28 October 1903, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Bankers Are Dined,” pg. 13:
Fillet of beef, a la Wellington

Google Books
Explanations of all terms used in Coockery-Cellaring and the prepartion of drinks
Pocket Dictionary

By Kurt Heppe
New York, NY: Published by author
1908
Pg. 108:
Cretes de volaille—Fowl combs.
(...)
a la Wellington; with chutney sauce, fried in oil.

Feeding America
The International Jewish Cook Book:
1600 Recipes According To The Jewish Dietary Laws With The Rules For Kashering: The Favorite Recipes Of America, Austria, Germany, Russia, France, Poland, Roumania, Ect., Ect.

By Florence Kreisler Greenbaum.
New York, NY: Bloch Pub. Co.
1919
Pg. 44:
BAKED BASS A LA WELLINGTON
Remove the scales and clean. Do not remove the head, tail, or fins. Put into a double boiler one tablespoon of butter, two cups of stale bread crumbs, one tablespoon of chopped onion, one teaspoon of chopped parsley, two teaspoons of chopped capers, one-fourth cup of sherry. Heat all the above ingredients, season with paprika and salt, and stuff the bass with the mixture. Sew up the fish, put into a hot oven, bake and baste with sherry wine and butter.

A fish weighing four or five pounds is required for the above recipe.

Australian Newspapers
7 March 1925, Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), pg. 22, col. 1 ad:
Filet d’Boeuf a la Wellington.
(Cafe Francais—ed.)

9 January 1930, Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, pg. 9, col. 6:
(A story wherein the two characters are in a restaurant in California, reading from a menu—ed.)
“Cream of chicken Vanderbilt?” At 90 cents?  “I’d suggest consomme Milanaise (45) cents) instead of a thick soup. And how about ---let’s see---beef Wellington?” ($1.00--not a thing less than that which he could see!)

“I want Grenadin Talleyrand,” Anne smiled.  “Don’t tell me what it is, but it sounds lovely and expensive.”

9 May 1936, Centralia (WA) Daily Chronicle, pg. 11, col. 3:
Lord Kitchener sent for him after tasting his “Filet of Beef a la Wellington,” and expressed his appreciation of Reiss’ skill.
(Chef Paul Reiss, who cooked for railroads on the Pacific coast—ed.)

Google Books
Where to Dine in Thirty-Nine
by Diana Ashley
New York, NY: Crown Publishers
1939
Pg. 53:
GREENWICH VILLAGE CASINO....Fr.-Amer.
5 Sheridan Sq.  Tel:  CHelsea 3-8816
(...)
CHEF’S RECIPE:  TENDERLOIN OF BEEF WELLINGTON.  Emil Willman, Chef de cuisine. Larded tenderloin of beef. Roast very rare. Allow to cool and roll into pie crust. (...) Slice in portions and serve with sauce Madire.

Google Books
Knife and Fork in New York:
Where to Eat, What to Order

By Lawton Mackall
Published by R. M. McBride
1948
Pg. 127:
One of the favorite dishes, pastry encrusted filet of beef a la Louis & Armand, you have met elsewhere under the name of beef a la Wellington, but rarely as superb as here.

Where to Eat in New York
with drawings by Bill Pause
by Robert W. Dana (of the New York World-Telegram—ed.)
New York, NY: Current Books
1948
Pg. 217: 
(El Morocco, 154 East 54th Street—ed.)
This and the Stork rank as the two leading night spots in the city.  (...) For an entree let taste be your guide, because everything is excellent, from the beef Wellington, the famous preparation with foie gras and truffles and seasoning of origanum, to the many chicken and sea-food specialties.

May 1951, Gourmet, pg. 71, col. 2:
Q.  Several months ago, I had dinner at Patio Bruno in New York and enjoyed the most delicious meat--beef Wellington. I am anxious to secure the recipe for this very intriguing dish.
DR. FRANK R. ROMANO
DUNELLEN, NEW JERSEY

A.  Good friend Mr. Bruno has found it in his heart to pass his excellent recipe on for your—and our—delectation.
Beef Wellington Trim a good-sized filet, smear it generously with butter, and spinkle it with salt and pepper. Put it in a flat pan with scraps of celery, onion, and parsley, 1 bay leaf, and a pinch of rosemary and roast it in a very hot oven (475 degress F.) for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven to cool.

When the filet is cold, spread all the surfaces with a substantial layer of pate de foie gras and wrap in rich pie pastry, rolled about 1/8 inch thick. Trim the edges of the pastry, moisten them with a little cold water, and press firmly together. Bake the rolled filet on a baking sheet in a hot oven (450 degrees F.) for about 15 minutes, or until the crust is delicately browned. For a shiny crust, brush the surface with beaten egg yolk before baking.

Add 1 cup veal gravy, 1/4 cup pate de foie gras, and 1 large truffle, chopped, to the pan in which the filet was first roasted. Simmer the sauce while the pastry-wrapped filet is baking, strain it into a sauceboat, and serve separately.

Leite’s Culinaria
Beef Wellington
from Gourmet
January, 1991
Serves 8
The enduring popularity of this dish — a fillet of beef tenderloin coated with pâté de foie gras and a duxelles of mushrooms that are then all wrapped in puff pastry — is legendary. It has remained a favorite in Britain and the U.S. for over a century ever since it was created to honor the Duke of Wellington, a hero of the Napoleonic Wars

Ingredients
1 3 1/2-pound fillet of beef, tied with thin sheets of larding fat at room temperature
3/4 pound mushrooms, finely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 pound pâté de foie gras (available at specialty foods shops), room temperature
1 pound thawed puff pastry, plus additional for garnish
1 large egg white, beaten
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water for egg wash
1/2 cup Madeira
2 teaspoons arrowroot, dissolved in 1 teaspoon cold water
1/2 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons finely chopped black truffles (available at specialty food shops)
1 bunch watercress (...)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Friday, February 13, 2009 • Permalink