Living up to expectations is something we all attempt at times, and I had a request to cook pigeon wellington for a little dinner party I put together for my old Dad. Having never cooked it before, even with beef, I turned to my friend Google who came up with lots of annoyingly different versions, so I came up with my own (although I am aware this is hardly break-through cooking as it is a very simple dish to make). One of Dad's favourite things in the world is the delectably controversial foie gras, so it made sense to use that to add both sweetness and depth, and a bit of moisture for those little weeny pigeon breasts. I made six but you can very easily change the recipe to make as few or as many as you need.
Take a dry frying pan, get it hot and dry fry one finely sliced chestnut mushroom per person, sprinkling over a little salt. This will draw out the moisture to help avoid soggy welly syndrome. Put the mushrooms to the side, once they have dried out again, In the same frying pan, heat a splash of oil and flash fry two pigeon breasts per person and season as you go. Literally just seal the meat, but make sure the pan is hot enough to get a nice colour very quickly. Put the pan to the side and DO NOT WASH IT UP! You need those juices for your sauce later. You will need one roll of puff pastry for two wellingtons, and it's just a matter of construction now! Cut an un-rolled piece of pastry into two pieces. Put a single layer of mushrooms towards the bottom of the piece, in the middle, put two pigeon breasts on top and then place slices of foie gras pate on top. Brush egg wash around your little pile and fold the pastry over. Gently push the edges down and cut away any excess pastry, and brush the whole package with egg wash to make sure it goes golden brown. If you really want to test your creative skills, cut out a little pigeon shape from the pastry trimmings and place on top of each welly. When they are all ready, cook in a pre-heated oven at 180c for about 20 minutes (really it's as soon as the pastry is cooked as the pigeon wants as little cooking as possible). De-glaze the pigeon pan with a splash of red wine and make a nice little gravy (or jus if you have your fancy pants on). This is magic with celeriac remoulade which I will post later.
Don't be too shocked, as I was, when the wellingtons have almost doubled in size, the clue is in the name, puff pastry.