I have a basic hosting rule that I broke this holiday season. Let me set the stage:

I had a semi-formal dinner party for friends. Very excited getting the house ready and the menu planned. Decided to do my very first “Beef Wellington”, a saucy little British number named after the Duke of Wellington, so of course made with that most expensive of meats: the tenderloin. Not something you want to screw up.

You see I watched a video of this elegant dish being prepared, and thought “no problem!” If one of the greatest chefs in the world can do it I can. Right. I started first thing in the morning and ran into a few basic operational issues to start:

1. my plastic wrap was not wide enough. What? You don’t see this as a problem? To properly roll the three layers together and form that perfect “cylinder” you must have the right size plastic wrap! And I thought I could wing it, silly girl;
2. my mushroom/chestnut mixture (yes, I roasted the chestnuts) was too moist;
3. I did not have enough prosciutto to completely wrap both tenderloins (oh, yes. You thought I was only doing one? Oh, no. When we screw up we go big time);
4. and my spreading of the mixture onto the prosciutto was too thin.
5. in doing the final step (there are two), I had the same plastic wrap issue, but this time I was smarter: I rolled two sheets out side-by-side, only to find…
6. my puff pastry was stuck together. This, my friends, is a deal breaker. No pastry, no puff, no Wellington. I did not panic…too much. I poured a glass of Champagne and popped the sticky sheets into the freezer for a few minutes and voila – unstuck. Kind of.

But I am proud to say that I did do the egg yoke brush at the end pretty darn perfectly. My guests were gracious and sung my praises, and most of the plates went back to the kitchen empty. Always a good sign.

No, unfortunately the shot below is not of my Beef Wellington. And I must say that it takes longer than 30 minutes to reach 125 degrees. It is amazing how quickly asparagus can overcook…

The rule? Never do a new recipe for your guests, no matter how cocky the cook.