Dinner Party Challenge: Budget Beef Wellington

I love the show Mad Men. The attention to detail is amazing. The characters are believable and complex. However, there’s one scene that’s almost too unbelievable to be watchable. It’s the one where Joan and Rodger have just completed a tawdry tryst at a fancy hotel and Joan insists she must get back to work rather than nomming on the amazing room service spread that has been ordered for her.

Roger couldn’t believe it either. “Look, we’ve got oysters rockefeller! Beef Wellington! Napoleons! We leave this lunch alone, it’ll take over Europe.” 

Don is as confused as I am.

Fast forward to several years later. Brian and I are happily cohabitating and decide on Beef Wellington as the main course for our Thanksgiving Dinner. Neither of us had had the dish before, but the urge to consume juicy beef wrapped in prosciutto, mushrooms and mustard that’s then wrapped in a crispy pastry crust could no longer being denied.

When I was handed a slab of beef tenderloin from my friendly butcher, my eyes widened with sticker shock. This was the moment I learned half of a beef tenderloin costs about $50.

“We cannot screw this up,” I warned Brian over the phone on my way home.

Fortunately, it turned out great. However, it wasn’t a dish we thought we’d make very frequently, given the expense.

Or was it?

About once a week, we’re going to invite a couple of friends over for a budget dinner party. Our goal is to create the best meal we can with a limited budget.

Welcome to our first Dinner Party Challenge!

Nervous? We’re not nervous!

We invited our good friends Phillip and David over for Beef Wellington, Fondant Potatoes, and Green Beans.

Our total grocery bill for ingredients, some of which we’ll have plenty left over (like potatoes and half the ground beef) came to $20. We substituted beef tenderloin with ground beef. That, along with buying everything from Aldi (except the puff pastry, which they don’t sell), helped us keep costs down.

Budget Beef Wellington

The biggest worries we had about the Wellington was that the beef wouldn’t cook all the way through and it would just taste like a burger wrapped in pastry.  Luckily, neither of those worries came to fruition!

Ingredients gathered!

Here’s the recipe Brian came up with to make our Budget Beef Wellington:

  • 1 and 1/2 pounds ground beef (use lean ground beef)
  • 1/2 of an onion, diced
  • 8oz. of button mushrooms
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 eggs
  • About 1/2 cup of regular breadcrumbs
  • Worcestershire Sauce, about 1 Tablespoon
  • Fresh thyme, about 1 teaspoon
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • Dijon mustard
  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Oven preheated to 400 degrees F

1. Put the mushrooms in a food processor and chop them until they are very small and take on a paste-like consistency.

It’s OK if there are a few big chunks in there

2. To a hot pan, add butter and then the chopped mushrooms.  Then season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  The goal here is to cook out as much moisture as possible from the mushrooms.  Try to get the mushrooms as dry as possible.

Get that moisture outta here!

3. While the mushrooms are cooking, make the beef mixture.  To the ground beef add the breadcrumbs, onion, egg, parsley, salt and pepper.

Mmmm…. Beeeefff

4. Once the puff pastry is thawed, place a few sheets of plastic wrap on your counter and then place the pastry on top of it. Using a rolling pin, stretch the pastry so it measures 14 x 14 inches.

Keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’

5. Spread dijon mustard in a thin layer all over the pastry, leaving about an inch free around the edges.

Such a pretty painting!

6. Spread the cooked mushrooms in a thin layer over the top of the mustard.

Don’t worry if you don’t have enough paste, we sure didn’t!

7. Put the ground beef mixture on the pastry and form it into the shape of a beef tenderloin.  It should look like a long round log.  Be sure to leave enough space towards the edge so you can still wrap the beef with the pastry.

Ready to wrap!

8. Using the plastic wrap to help you, roll the pastry over the top of the beef.  Once the beef is wrapped, twist the ends of the plastic wrap to secure and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Wrap it nice and tight!
Food Baby!

9. Place on a cooking sheet sprayed with oil and then, using the last egg, beat egg to make an egg wash and “paint” the egg wash all over the Wellington.

10. Finally, make a few slits in the pastry to allow steam to escape during cooking.

11. Cook for 45 minutes at 400 F then let rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Beef and potatoes can cook at the same time!
Let that baby rest!

Fondant Potatoes

Brian and I both are a little miffed that “Scalloped Potatoes” is already taken, as the finished product from this recipe looks almost exactly like scallops!

Ingredients, Peelin’, and Brownin’!
Don’t forget the Thyme & butter…mmmmn…butter…

The browned potatoes can be placed in the oven at the same time as the Wellington.

Bacon Fatty Green Beans

This is one of my favorite ways to prepare green beans! All you need is salt, pepper, green beans (duh) and bacon fat, which I’m sure you also save, right?

Beans of Greenery
Fatty happiness.

Here’s my recipe:

  • Boil the green beans for about 3-4 minutes.
  • Immediately throw into an ice bath (this will keep them bright green, but still soft)
  • Return beans to the orginal pot, along with two heaping tablespoons of bacon fat and heat on low til warm.
  • Salt & pepper to taste.

Our guests arrived just as we were plating dinner.

Not too shabby!

The Beef Wellington was perfectly cooked through, and the crust was delightfully crispy.

The moment of truth!
Pastry + Meat = A winning combination

Phillip and David seemed pleased with our spread.

Hey guys!

After dinner, we asked them what they felt would be a fair restaurant price for the meal they just had. They both agreed $18 seemed reasonable.

Let’s do some math:

$18 x 4 = $72

$72 – $20 = $52 saved!

How do you think we did? What would you like to see us cook for our next Dinner Party Challenge?

54 thoughts on “Dinner Party Challenge: Budget Beef Wellington

  1. Cool new blog! 1 typo, but everything was simple and amazing to read! Unfortunately, I thought the whole meal with potatoes and green beans, along with spices needed, would be around $20. I guess this assumes we have the spices already? Thanks for the recipe, when I can I’ll try it out. Gonna have to find things on sale first.

  2. I’m a huge fan of Refashionista and I love cooking so I’m now a huge fan of Chef and Pauper!

    Looking forward to your next challenge!

  3. So excited to see this new blog! I’ve followed refashionista for so long. I’ll be attempting this recipe and can’t wait to see what else you both dream up!

  4. Looks amazing! Well done, I’m definitely going to try this as never made a Wellington and have been too scared to try in case I ruin an expensive fillet of beef (tenderloin your end?) I loved the Refashionista too. Any chance of metric conversions alongside the imperial measurements for all your British fans. I could always Google conversation charts but it makes life easier. 😘

  5. Love the new blog. I worked for a few years in a Culinary school program,and I love to cook. I will try the fondant potatoes. Maybe tomorrow. If you want a real challenge try Duchess potatoes. Yesterday I made Irish Stew withground beef and biscuits.

  6. This is a perfect compliment to Refashionista. I will be making this and following the blog. All you need for the ultimate trifecta is a friend who “refashions” cool home decor and furnishings from “GW Boutique.”

  7. Like the new website/blog idea. Want to see more, more, more. Why not do a vegetarian night for those of us that are veggie-prone ? I’m sure you have a couple of vegetarian friends that you could use as guinea pigs.
    Would you be willing to attempt the more difficult vegan option meal ? The internet is flooded with recipes to use. And Jillian, especially with company—-don’t forget dessert !
    Happy New Year and New Website/Blog !

  8. Yum…this looks great. I pinned the recipe. May be the first recipe I make once I’m finished with my kitchen remodel (or send to my brother to make & of course invite me over to try!)

  9. Wow! I don’t have time right now to read the whole thing…I have to go to work…(I work at Aldi!!!). But I will surely read it when I get home!!! Fantastic!!!!!!!!!!

  10. A meal like this for only twenty dollars! Only in my Canadian dreams. Still, I’d love to try it. I do not partake of the pig so l will have to come up with another veg, but I can’t wait to try everything else out on my family. Maybe for my birthday! (Wish I could pin this.)

  11. I was a little worried that the food would be a little too upscale for my palate – especially after reading about a $50 beef tenderloin. But I could/would definitely make this using your ground beef and would enjoy every bite. Don’t forget Refashionista though. I miss it.

  12. I loved your ReFashionista Blog and am going to enjoy this one, too.
    Green Beans – -one thing we do is omit the bacon fat. Cook them with a pat or two of butter, a chicken bouillon cube, and either garlic powder or minced garlic. That’s yummy, too. I. had to find an alternative since I have tick bite, Alpha-Gal Allergy, which means no pork or beef at the least.

  13. I would never buy a big expensive piece of meat, but I already have some quality hamburger. I am definitely going to try this. Love the sides as well.

  14. Great Job you guys! Love Refashionista, now this?! Kudos! I’d love to see your take on Chicken Cordon bleu or maybe “Chicken fried” Pork chops? I’m sure you’re more than up to the challenge!😉

  15. Love your blog already! We live in the south also and with all this bitter cold weather, we’ve had a hankering for a yummy pot pie. We don’t eat chicken, and we spent this afternoon searching through Earth Fare looking for a veggie version. We couldn’t find a single one, so for your next dinner challenge, how about an awesome Veggie Pot Pie recipe for your neighbors over here in Asheville?! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  16. I am liking this new blog ! It was easy to read had your usual humor … oh and congrats on the relationship he looks like a mountain man , so probably a bear meat dinner would be appropriate 😉.

    1. Haha! On our first date I told him, “You certainly seem to have the whole lumberjack look down!” Now…where to find bear meat…

  17. I am liking this new blog ! It was easy to read had your usual humor … oh and congrats on the relationship he looks like a mountain man , so probably a bear meat dinner would be appropriate 😉.

  18. This is such a great idea for those of us who have to nickel and dime a meal. Definitely will have to try this recipe.

  19. Love this new blog in addition to Refashionista. I too would like to see you make Chicken Cordon Bleu. I can’t wait to make this version of Beef Wellington. Thanks!

  20. Love both of your blogs. Can we sign up to get this one also? I will be trying this soon. Glad to see you healthy & happy. I wish you the best in everything you do this year.

  21. How fun! Thank you for sharing. Gotta love Aldi for all it can provide to a great meal. More people might be willing to learn now. Great blogging you two.

  22. Love the premise of this new blog! I’m interested in simple but delicious meals. I love to shop at our local Lidl (and occasionally Aldi) because of their organic offerings at good prices and just plain good prices on good food. I’m a meat and potatoes girl but I eat kale now because of Lidl. Beef Wellington sounds so complicated but you all made it seem so easy. I’ll have to try this.

    Of course I came over from your Refashionista blog. You two are super cute together! But I already love Brian because he’s from my parts (Va Beach, ODU), is in the aerospace field, was in the Navy, AND he’s a man who loves to cook!!! He will send me over the top if he has a red buffalo plaid flannel shirt : )

  23. I love Refasionista and now I love this new blog! I have always wanted to try to make beef wellington but was afraid of the cost…and messing up! Now I adding this to next weeks menu! you rock!

  24. What a surprise! Happy New Year to you both! Congratulation! Iv’e always said that, “The way to a girls heart is through her stomach!” How terrific to hear from you again Jillian, and lovely to meet you Brian. I think this a wonderful idea, and have signed up. Love surprises!
    Thank you 🙂 Jillian (Melbourne, Australia)

  25. Hey way to go both of you 😊 Congratulations on the new blog, great idea. I actually like the fact you could do the expensive version or the cheaper depending on circumstances. Really great
    explanations/instructions with cheats for us lot that used to make things from scratch but prefer not to these days. My only one tiny tiny negative comment would be presentation of food for pics could sass up a little…. I like the realistic version but not sure the majority wil 😂😂
    Thank you both sooooo much enjoyed very much look forward to many more posts btw thx Brian for pantry list very helpful I thought.

  26. Love the new blog! I love Refashionista too. You and Brian’s endeavor reminds me of a book I read last year that I just loved. It’s called “The Art of Eating In”. I eat in almost exclusively because I like to cook and I’m frugal. I really love the idea of challenging yourselves to make dinner party food on a budget. I’ll be looking for future blog posts 🙂

  27. This recipe was FANTASTIC! My 5 yr old grandson told me that he wanted to take the leftovers home…it was the best meat I had ever made. 🙂

    1. Oh yay! We’re so happy it worked out well for you (and that your kiddo clearly has refined tastes!)! 😀 Feel free to tag us on Instagram @chefandpauper if you have a pic! We’d love to see it!

  28. Hey, Thanks for the recipe for beans and potatoes. I will make them soon. Can you make a complete veg meal?

  29. Ok, you HAD ME at Refashionista, but NOW you are truly my best friend!!! Not only referring to Mad Men, an extreme favorite show, but your dinner party menu is perfection –cannot wait to try it! My husband is on a huge pantry kick, and will be chiming in on that.
    Happy New Year to us for sneaking in to see Chef and Pauper!

  30. Great Job Jillian! Love Love Love the new blog. Sign me up. The Beef Wellington, Potatoes Fondant and Green Beans meal looked amazing. Such good ideas and so economical. Thank you.

  31. I see you don’t monetize your blog, don’t waste your traffic, you can earn extra cash every
    month because you’ve got hi quality content. If you want to know how to make extra $$$, search for: Mertiso’s tips best adsense alternative

  32. Jillian, I already love your new blog. I’ve enjoyed the other so much, that I wasn’t sure about this new one. But I should have known… it’s delightfully full of your spunk and spirit. You are my younger kindred spirit, for it seems we love so many of the same things in life. … good food, frugality, unique/fun/cheap fashions, theatre life, and smart, interesting people.
    I’d love to try your beef Wellington, but am horribly allergic to beef. I have substituted ground turkey, pork, and venison for beef on many recipes. However, for some, the substitute doesn’t hit the mark. Do you or Brian have any suggestions/advise on a beef substitute for this yummy recipe?

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