Wellingtons and Shooters: Rethinking the classic beef sandwich

The many ways of cooking and consuming beef is a highlight of English culinary tradition. For steak lovers, the Great British family of beef sandwiches and savories is one that’s not to be missed.

Image source: bbcgoodfood.com

This, of course, includes that barmy British staple, beef wellingtons—seasoned beef steaks and mushrooms wrapped in baked puff pastry. We have actually no idea how it fits in with famous war hero the Duke of Wellington, but it was attested sometime in the 19th century. Since then it has, hands down, become one of the most popular British dishes both in the U.K. and across the Atlantic. Some of my favorite variations to this dish include the egg-washed version made by Gordon Ramsay.

Image source: npr.org

Beef wellingtons aren’t especially finicky dishes, needing only salt, pepper, and maybe a few dabs of mustard to bring the flavor out. Those wishing for something fancier may try coating it with pâté de foie gras. When cooking them in bulk, they can be frozen in advance and baked when ready to serve. I concur with Chef Gordon on how they’re supposed to be served: in thick, one-inch cuts.

There is another, less well known British beef dish that evokes the same steak goodness of beef wellingtons while at the same time being portable. So named because of its association with hunters, the shooter’s sandwich originated in the early Edwardian era. Much like wellingtons, shooter’s sandwiches involve beef steaks, mushrooms, and seasonings, but instead of being sandwiched in a piece of puff pastry, the steaks are shoved into a hollowed out loaf of bread, which is then compressed overnight then baked. Underrated stuff.

I’m Professor Wayne Imber, retired academic and Anglo dining aficionado. Catch more on my thoughts on the often overlooked culinary tradition of England and the rest of the U.K. on Twitter.

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