Fantastic Feasts: Vincent Price's un-wealthy Wellington

It's hard to say the name Vincent Price without thinking first of, well, the actor. With a film career that spanned almost sixty years and more than 200 acting credits alone, Price was nothing if not prolific. With iconic appearances in movies like The Last Man on Earth, The Fly (the original one) and Edward Scissorhands to his role as the narrator in Michael Jackson's "Thriller," Price was known for both his gaunt, imposing visage and distinctive voice. For many fans, the name Vincent Price was synonymous with horror.

Surprisingly enough, there was another side to Vincent Price; a side that came alive in the kitchen. Price was not only an actor -- he was also an acclaimed gourmet cook who wrote multiple best-selling cookbooks and had his own cooking show.

His first cookbook, A Treasury of Great Recipes, was written with his second wife Mary and published in 1965.

Next came the 5-volume Mary and Vincent Price present a National Treasury of Cookery. This was followed up by another cookbook co-written with his wife, Come into the Kitchen, in 1969.

Side note: Of all Price's cookbooks, A Treasury of Great Recipes has remained the favorite. In honor of the 50th anniversary, it has just been reprinted and is now available on Amazon. While his other books remain currently out of print, they do occasionally resurface on eBay.

Following the success of his books, Price left the film industry in the mid-'70s and dove head-first into the culinary world. While Price would return to the film world with the occasional cameo and small role, the rest of his life was spent cultivating his love for food. It wasn't unusual to see a recipe of his pop up in Sunday newspapers and magazines across the country.

While you might assume that his background in horror films would spill over into his cooking, Price approached all his recipes with an eye skewed more towards the gourmet than the gory. (Of course, he also had a strange and undying love for the All-American hot dog and included a recipe for it in his book as well, so maybe he didn't completely abandon his drive-in horror roots!)

In celebration of this great man and his contributions to both the culinary and cinematic world, I decided to make his un-wealthy Wellington, a not-so-traditional twist on the classic Beef Wellington. This recipe originally appeared in an ad campaign sponsored by the Angostura bitters company (which might account for the more creative ingredients).

To make your own Vincent Price un-wealthy Wellington you will need:

  • 2 lbs ground round
  • 2 premade pre-rolled frozen pie crusts, thawed *
  • 2 Tablespoons bitters (Angostura)
  • 2 Teaspoons salt
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 8 oz can mushroom, chopped
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs

*the original recipe calls for two boxes of pie crust and has you pre-make them, but thanks to modern technology, I optioned to go for the pre-made stuff and it was just fine.

You will also need:

  • Sharp knife
  • Large bowl for mixing
  • Spoon for mixing
  • Tin foil
  • Baking sheet
  • Small cookie cutter (optional)
  • Rolling pin
  1. Roll out your crust to a 10 X 14 inch oblong. (An easy way to make your two pie crusts stick together is to overlap the two edges, moisten them lightly, and roll with your rolling pin to help join them.)
  2. Sautee your onions and mushrooms. Once they're sauteed, set them aside to cool slightly. Add them to the bread crumbs, eggs, Angostura bitters, salt and ground round.
  3. Place your beef mixture onto your pie crust and shape into a loaf. Using a little water, moisten the edges of the pie crust and wrap completely around your meat, leaving a 1/2 inch hole in the top of the crust.
  4. Place seam side down on a cookie sheet and bake at 350F/177C for 90 minutes.

 

Well, that certainly seems easy enough! I admit that due to my status as a single gal baking for one, I cut this recipe in half. No need to make two pounds of roast for just one person.

I rolled out my dough and used a cookie cutter to cut a small vent hole into what would eventually be the top of the loaf.

It's always good to add in a venting hole or two to allow the steam to escape. A loaf with too much steam trapped inside it will result in a soggy, doughy crust. I wanted to use one of my creepy Halloween cutters in honor of Price's horror-cinema past but they were all too big so I decided to use my small star instead. (In lieu of a cookie cutter, you could always just option to add in small slashes with your knife.)

I then sautéed the onions and mushrooms which filled the house with absolutely delicious smells. This recipe was off to a great start.

While they were cooling I mixed together my breadcrumbs, egg, salt and beef.

Up to this point, it was essentially the same recipe I've used for meatloaf countless times before. But then came the bitters.

Bitters are not something I'm normally used to using in cooking. Drinking, yes. Cooking, no. Traditionally used in whiskey drinks like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan, bitters is meant to add in a -- well --bittersweet flavor. It certainly isn't something I expected to be putting into my un-Wellington. But when in Rome ... So, I uncapped my bitters and added it into the beef.

The smell of the bitters on their own is pungent and a bit bracing, but when mixed with the mushrooms and onions, it fades to an earthier note that in a strange way tantalizes the nose.

I continued to be excited about my upcoming meal.

Once everything was all mixed up, I put it on my dough and shaped it into a rough loaf shape.

I then wrapped the whole thing up per the directions.

Even though it wasn't in the recipe, I cut out a few extra stars from the excess dough and gave the whole thing a light melted butter wash because I'm fancy like that.

I popped it into the oven and set about waiting my 90 minutes.

When I took it out an hour and a half later I was stunned by how good it looked.

Flaky and golden with a light and deliciously fragrant steam escaping from the top, it was every bit as beautiful as I could hope.

Slicing into it resulted in thick slabs of pie crust-wrapped meat cooked to a perfect even brown.

I grabbed a fork and, mouth-watering, stomach rumbling, dug in.

Hmm ...

Interesting ...

It's definitely a unique taste. I was surprised by the sweetness of the first bite. Being wrapped in pie pastry might make this an easier recipe, but it absolutely added a sweetness to the dish that might not be as prominent if you used the more traditional flake dough of a standard Wellington.

The bitters added a taste that was much earthier than I'm used to with meatloaf. That's not to say it was bad ... it was just different, but not so different that I didn't manage to plow through two huge slices of this by myself.

While I fully enjoyed this adventure, I am not sure I would make it again without a few serious adjustments. I would definitely start with a different crust with a much lower (or even zero) sugar content. I'd also think twice about doing the bitters again and would probably just substitute either A-1 or Worcestershire sauce. All in all, however, it was a great way to spend an evening in honor of one of the greatest silver screen (and kitchen!) legends of all time, the timeless and multi-talented Vincent Price.

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