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Josh Cooper

In the Kitchen with ...

Josh Cooper Creates a ShowStopping Entrée Just in Time for the Holidays Imagine, if you will, a holiday dinner party at your house. Wine flows, conversation is lively and the table is set to perfection. Guests are seated around the table when you present them with the pièce de résistance: a perfectly plated Beef Wellington — a medium-rare tenderloin, coated in a creamy mushroom mélange and encased in puff pastry. Political consultant — now food blogger — Josh Cooper believes you can make this culinary fantasy a reality that will wow friends and family at your next gathering. First, Cooper says, do not be intimidated by this classic gourmet recipe. “It’s time consuming; it’s not hard. There are a lot of steps,” he says. The 37-year-old played college football at Furman University, and got his start in politics volunteering on the presidential primary campaign of John McCain in 2000. He would follow political clients for the next several years and came to Florida in 2010 working on Gov. Rick Scott’s first election campaign. Today, he owns two companies. Strategic Information Consultants conducts opposition research nationwide and Next Generation Strategies provides more traditional campaign services including strategy, grassroots outreach, media relations, and communications. In the most recent campaign cycle, Cooper said his work was more focused on super PACs rather than individual candidates. Cooper’s culinary adventure began when, early in his career, he lived in Memphis and joined a barbecue group known as the Swinos. He still joins them for competitions throughout the country. Now, his favored barbecuing method is the Big Green Egg, which looks just like its name and has a nationwide following, with several cooking events and forums for devotees, including a Facebook group. It was via Facebook that Cooper engaged in his first “throwdown” — a cooking challenge where participants are required to make a dish featuring a specific ingredient; in this competition, mushrooms. He decided to attempt a Beef Wellington using duxelles — a mixture featuring finely chopped mushrooms — to coat the beef, rather than the even more traditional foie gras. He won. That was about a year and a half ago and, since then, Cooper has taken a deep dive into cooking, culminating in his most recent endeavor, a food blog launched this December called EpicuriousCoop.com. The goal of his site, which will feature recipes, reviews and videos, is to help home cooks elevate their kitchen skills. Like this: “Here are your traditional recipes. Here’s how we take it to the next level. And here’s how you get that pow pow.” Part of his Beef Wellington “pow pow” are elegant, flavorful side dishes and creative plating. Before dishing out the “colorful, Christmas-y” carrot puree and roasted root vegetables, Cooper sat down and sketched plating ideas. “I’m such a nerd,” he confessed. While Beef Wellington is a bit complicated, Cooper insists everyday meals don’t have to be an ordeal. “When I get home at night … I like to come in here and see what’s in my fridge, pour myself a bourbon and figure out what I can make and try different things. It’s my therapy,” he explains. “People think it takes forever to cook stuff, but really, you can make some pretty nice dishes in 30 or 45 minutes. You don’t need hours and hours. It helps, but you don’t need it.” 46 | INFLUENCE WINTER 2016

Beef Wellington Beef tenderloin filet (about 3 pounds) Meat Church Holy Cow beef rub or your favorite steak seasoning Olive or grapeseed oil 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 tablespoons spicy mustard 8 ounces Baby Bella Mushrooms, chopped fine 2 tablespoons minced shallot 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped 1 teaspoon soy sauce 2 large eggs 4 ounces cream cheese, softened 1 tablespoon water 2 sheets puff pastry Brush the filet with olive oil and season liberally with your favorite rub. Heat a cast iron skillet on high heat. Add a little grapeseed or olive oil to the pan until it begins to smoke. Quickly sear all sides of the filet to make a nice brown crust. Let the steak cool. In another pan, heat butter, finely chopped mushrooms, shallots, garlic, thyme, and soy sauce and cook over medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and let it cool in the fridge. Once cooled, mix in one egg and cream cheese. Roll out the thawed puff pastry over a lightly floured mat. Leaving a 2-inch border on the edges, apply the mushroom mixture over half of the rolled-out puff pastry. Brush the filet with spicy mustard and place in the middle of the mushroom mixture. Roll up the tenderloin half way and then brush the exposed borders with egg wash (egg and water mixed). Continue rolling the tenderloin and seal by tucking the ends under the pastry. Brush the entire pastry with egg wash. Cook at 425 for about 30 minutes. The Wellington will be finished when the internal temperature of the meat hits 130. Allow the Wellington to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

PHOTOS: Mark Wallheiser Photography

PARTY PERFECT BEEF WELLINGTON

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INFLUENCE Florida Winter 2016  

The people, professionals and lifestyle of Florida politics

INFLUENCE Florida Winter 2016  

The people, professionals and lifestyle of Florida politics