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January 12, 2002
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Beef Wellington

10:10 pm: I've had, for a very long time, a very odd, wistful desire. There was a dish I'd read about when I was a kid, and I'd read about it a few times since, and I had always wondered what it would actually taste like. I don't even remember the book, though it would be appropriate if it were something that was in The Secret Garden, but it's far more likely to have been in some turgid Regency Romance, it seems to be the kind of food someone would have had in one of those. The dish was a Beef Wellington.

I don't know why I've been fascinated by them. Geoff once said that it sounded like ruining a good filet by wrapping it with liverwurst, though he did admit he'd never had one but he also never saw the point. John noted, with some wonder, that it's a lot like an exotic pig in a blanket. John was right in a way.

I've just been wanting to try a Beef Wellington for some time. The ones that Harry and David sells are pretty expensive, though, and Cooks Illustrated recently had an article on making one and it sounded like it wasn't that scary. Wolfgang Puck, on TV, made individual ones from individual sized filet mignons instead of the whole tenderloin, which seemed far more manageable. Then Alton Brown did a very nice duxelles on his crepe show. So I had all the pieces in my head.

When we went to the cheese market this morning, I had it in mind. They had a very nice duck and port pate, so I bought that and had the hardest to find element of the dish. At the grocery store it was easy to find the filet mignons, puff pastry, shallots, mushrooms, and a bit of cream. I've been really good about eating mostly low-fat stuff for the last several weeks, so it was a once in a while indulgence.

I also needed to cook and stuff to head off what really does feel like a full-blown depression. Between my teeth, work, and getting nit-picked to death by someone, I was just really hurt, upset, and drained. I just was having real troubles with getting any joy out of living.

Jet was great, though. He was up for just two ten minute ups last night, and then in the morning, when he got up at 6, I nursed him and then he and I slept on the couch until John got up. So John got to catch up on sleep, and I didn't lose *that* much sleep and it was just nice to cuddle up with Jet and eventhough he was wide awake after eating off me, he did go to sleep just cuddled up with me on the couch. Jet was also far less crabby this morning after the extra sleep. He was cheerful, chipper, and really enjoyed the errand running.

Jet was great all day with John. They went out again in the afternoon to give me time to write Kathy and attempt updating my journal. There was a connection problem with flick, somewhere, but luckily I didn't have any problems with eskimo. So I did get the letter done after all. I did get it all downloaded from the Visor and spell checked.

I took care of the early prep while they were out, too. I cooked the duxelle. I chopped shallots and rough chopped mushrooms, and cooked them with a bit of butter, salt, and pepper until the mushrooms had given up all their juices. Then I added a bit of cream, and let that reduce until it was all just a chunky paste. The steaks I just seared on both sides. Since they were going to be baked in the crust, they'd get more cooked later. Everything went into the refrigerator, so that they wouldn't melt the puff pastry when I put it all together.

When they got home, they both went downstairs and John got to ride the exercise bike while Jet played. Jet discovered the loom and he crawled under it and gently played with all the metal heddles, thousands of them, all lined up on the harnesses. Jet played with the moving toy from Joan's, and had a good time just bopping about downstairs. John put two chairs in front of the bottom of the stairway down there so that Jet couldn't get past. It's better that Jet not try the steep stairs.

Afterwards, I was done with my computer stuff, so I came down when they came up. I fed Jet and then finished the individual Beef Wellingtons. I rolled out one sheet of pastry, cut it in half, then put down a layer of the duxelle. I then slathered one side of the filet with the pate, put it on the duxelle, and then spread more pate on the top side. I spooned another layer of duxelle on top of that and then folded the pastry around the whole thing. A little egg wash, and the whole thing stuck together. When I had both packets done, I put egg wash over both and then popped them into a 400 degree oven. They baked. John made salad, and then we ate.

They were good. Tasty. Rich. The pastry was crisp and flaky, the mushrooms were creamy with the melted pate, and the filet was fork tender. The bottom pastry was a bit soggy from all the juices, both the melted pate and the juices from the already seared steak combined to make the bottom pretty much a loss. I kind of wonder if I could have baked it on its side or something to preserve the crisp flakiness all around, which, I guess, the traditional Beef Wellington would do with its construction.

It was good. Not great, but not badly flawed, either. It satisfied what I had wanted out of it, both something to do that I was very interested in and a result that both John and I enjoyed. John ate half of his, and saved the other half for another day. I not only ate mine, but also had some fermented sweet rice soup for dessert.

We might go swimming tomorrow. John found the swimming diapers for Jet when they went on their afternoon adventure, so the pool will be safe from anything Jet could do. The water was so warm, and I thought Jet would have a great time in a completely new environment.

While we were shopping today, Jet was bouncing and dancing in his seat to the muzak coming from the store speakers. He was in such a good mood, and he was looking at everything and trying to grab everything. He ate his last jar of food for breakfast, so we stocked up again. Dozens and dozens of jars. He was fascinated by seeing that much of his food in the cart.

We also gave Jet a bath tonight. He had a great time, first, crawling around naked in the livingroom. It's good for this diaper rash and it seems to be really, really good for his attitude at night. He was just zooming around, laughing like crazy and far faster without the encumbrance of a diaper. He just loved it and was bouncing about, wriggling happily, and crawling around and around and around.

The bath was great, too. He really enjoyed scooting around in the water, and kept trying to stand up in the tub to see how the spigot worked. He also dove for the drain, and wrestled with it to see how it worked, too. He couldn't get it to work, but when John finally pulled the plug he was fascinated by watching the water go down.

I talked with John about my feeling that I've been backsliding. That the depression goes with the mental idiocy of going around in negative loops, that, as before, nitpicking, fault finding, and, as Anne Lamont put it so well, feeling like the turd at the center of the universe (i.e. *everything* is my fault) has all spiraled me back down into the horrible feelings I used to have. John said that, with Jet and with him I haven't back slid as far as he knew. I was treating them both with as much leeway and understanding as I ever do.

It was useful to get the feedback. To know the inner voice that says it's all my fault or that everything is awful because of me is wrong. That I can still act the way I want to *act* and not just let the inner critic get the upper hand on the things I do have control over, like the journal, too. Since I wanted to write about positive things, and I try to consciously do that, it really breaks the cycle because there is always *something* that's good each day that I can focus on and write about. Sure, lately, most of them have to do with Jet. That's okay, I think, as he is one of the keenest creatures in my days.

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