Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

I’ve felt a bit burnt out with my blog writing lately, though I can’t figure out if it’s because I’ve read through most of the books I really wanted to, or just haven’t felt the yen to cook. It’s a combination of both, but I think the New Year and wintertime is so gray and depressing that it saps the energy out of me. Also, sometimes the thought of making the same old dishes is boring.

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So when my friend Corey recommended Behind Closed Doors, my initial reaction was “meh.” It’s not that it didn’t sound good, it’s just that this genre of book is not usually my first choice. Along the same lines of The Girl on The Train (which is one my earliest blog posts), Gone Girl, and the ilk – you know, those psychological thrillers that follow a fairly familiar trajectory of a unreliable female narrator who finds herself in a very twisted peril – this book was actually very intense. Just goes to show, never judge a book by its genre.

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I actually read this book in three hours because it hooked me with the first paragraph and didn’t let me go. Starting with a dinner party given by Jack and Grace, the two main characters, it introduces what looks like the ideal, perfect marriage. Jack is wealthy, successful, handsome and charming. Grace is gorgeous, beautifully dressed, maintains a flawless home and figure, and can cook like a dream. So of course you know that there is some seriously fucked-up stuff going on under the surface.

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Anytime I look at a person, a couple, a family and they come across as ‘perfect,” I automatically go on red alert. There is no such thing as perfection, so when someone posits that their life, their home, their job, their marriage, their family dynamic has little or no flaws, floats on calm seas, and in particular, when their social media shows nothing but perfection, you can bet money that there is a lot of chaos, drama, trauma and negativity under the surface.

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You find out pretty quickly just how evil Jack is, and he is a truly nasty son of a bitch, though his character isn’t really well developed because you don’t get a huge amount of background about why he turned out to be such a bastard. I wish there had been more back story for him, because like all villains, he’s a lot more entertaining. Grace is more developed, and you definitely come to understand just how insinuating Jack’s manipulations are, when you realize exactly why he has targeted her and how he goes about breaking her psychologically. TRIGGER WARNING: there is a scene of animal death, where Jack kills Grace’s dog when they arrive home after their honeymoon. If you’re like me and cannot in any way read about animal violence, be warned. I had to skip over it. It doesn’t detract from the story, and in this case, it truly showcased what a horrendous prick Jack is, so it’s not gratuitous like some books can be when they unnecessarily have scenes of torture, gore, rape and horrendous death of characters, which I absolutely hate.

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She waits until Jack has carved the beef Wellington and served it with a gratin of potatoes, and carrots lightly glazed with honey. There are also tiny sugar peas, which I plunged into boiling water just before taking the beef from the oven. Diane marvels that I’ve managed to get everything ready at the same time, and admits that she always chooses a main course like curry, which can be prepared earlier and heated through at the last minute. I’d like to tell her that I’d much rather do as she does, that painstaking calculations and sleepless nights are the currency I pay to serve such a perfect dinner. But the alternative – serving anything that isn’t perfect – isn’t an option.

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One of the many ways that Jack has come to control Grace – and by which she has subtly gained back some small control herself – is in his exactitude and precision for all things, particularly cooking.  Beef Wellington with duxelles. I’d never made Beef Wellington before and thought it sounded like an exciting challenge, so here we go! Note: I used a center cut of beef tenderloin, which is quite pricey, though I think it’s worth it to splurge once in awhile.

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INGREDIENTS
2 pints white button mushrooms
1 large shallot
7 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 two-pound center cut beef tenderloin
Olive oil, sea salt, and pepper
8-10 slices prosciutto
2-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 pound puff pastry
Flour for rolling out the pastry
1 egg, beaten with a bit of water and sea salt

METHOD
In a food chopper or processor, pulse together the mushrooms, shallot, garlic, thyme, and tarragon, until finely minced.

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Melt the butter and olive oil in a pan, add the chopped mushroom mixture, and saute with a sprinkle of sea salt for 10-12 minutes, until most of the moisture has evaporated. Set aside to cool.

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On some plastic wrap, lay out the prosciutto, overlapping so you have a large sheet, then spread a thin layer of the cooled mushroom mixture onto the prosciutto.

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Drizzle the meat with olive oil, sea salt and pepper, and sear it in a cast-iron pan on high for about 2 minutes per side, on all four sides.

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Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. then smear the Dijon mustard on all sides of the meat.

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Place the meat on top of the mushrooms, cover tightly with the prosciutto strips, seal over the plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours.

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Pre-heat the oven to 425F and sprinkle flour on a flat surface. Roll out the puff pastry long enough so that it will completely cover the meat.

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Remove the meat from the refrigerator, cut off the plastic, and lay it in the center of the pastry. Fold over the pastry tightly until the meat is completely covered.

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Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle over a bit more salt. Place seam-side down on a flat baking tray, cut some slits in the pastry, and bake 45 minutes, or until the internal meat temperature is 120F.

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Remove from the oven and let rest for about 15 minutes before slicing with a serrated-edge knife and serving.

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I served mine with roasted red creamer potatoes and roasted radishes in a garlic-herb coating.

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The cut of meat is incredibly tender, so tender in fact, that we were able to cut it with a fork.  Sooooooooo delicious and decadent, a real treat for the tastebuds.

 

47 thoughts on “Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

    1. Thank you! This was actually the first book by her that I’ve read, and I loved it, too. Very intense. It’s not normally the genre I choose, though I’ve enjoyed other similar books. Really a great read, and yes, Jack Angel (the irony!) was a horrendous bastard. Certainly glad he got his in the end.

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    1. Thank you so much. It truly wasn’t difficult, just a bit nerve wracking not wanting to mess up such an expensive cut of meat. But it really came out nicely. If you follow Tyler Florence’s method, you won’t go wrong.

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  1. Whoa! Your Beef Wellington came out amazing! I just watched an episode of The British Baking Show and they made Beef Wellington. I want to try it because I’ve never made it and it looks like a challenge. As for the book, loved your thoughts on it. This book really made me uncomfortable at times. I just couldn’t deal with the suspense! Excellent post, Vanessa. ♥️

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    1. Thanks, Jen! It really wasn’t difficult, more just being nervous (at least for me) about messing up such a pricey cut of meat. But really, if you go with the scientific method laid out by Tyler Florence, e.g., keeping the beef very cold until wrapping it in the puff pastry, ensuring it is seared on all sides, letting it rest a good 20-30 minutes after cooking, and making sure the internal temp is between 120F and 125F, you can’t go wrong. I had a blast making it! Agree with you on the book about the intensity……it was hard to keep going but at the same time, I just couldn’t put it down. 🙂 Thank you!

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  2. This delicious post with attitude makes you seem like a slightly “unreliable narrator,” yourself, Vanessa – none of it seems to be written by someone who feels somewhat burnt out or depressed! But I get it – its that seasonal time of year for some of us when there isn’t enough warmth and sunshine to keep our spirits singing. What I’m eating today doesn’t hold a candle to your Beef Wellington – but there is a bottle of old vin zinfandel here that I would love to pair with it….! “never judge a book by its genre” indeed.

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    1. I think you’re right about the season. I hate January. The cold and gray skies, even in the Southwest, weigh on my spirit. The last few months of 2018 were difficult ones, and I think I’m having a delayed reaction to much of it. But I appreciate your kind words about the post and the beef Wellington! It was so fun to make something new, and fairly extravagant! Perhaps that’s the key to keeping our spirits up – giving ourselves new and challenging things to do and look forward to. And your bottle of old vine zin sounds wonderful! Enjoy and stay warm.

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  3. I can’t deal with animal murder (or children murder) myself. I’d be skimming that part too. The book sounds intense. I could feel myself tightening up as I read your review. The Beef Wellington, on the other hand, doesn’t look shocking or frightening at all! 🙂

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    1. It’s really an intense ride, the book that is. 😄 But that’s what makes it such a good, and fast, read. And thank you for the compliment on the Beef Wellington. I was so proud of myself. Lol! Not to sound too arrogant, but I was truly nervous about cooking such an expensive cut of meat.

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  4. Beef Wellington is so amazing. My husband makes it from time to time and it’s always such a treat. And now I really want him to reprise it! I think he goes with Gordon Ramsey’s version; I’ll have to ask how that differs. And despite the fact that I just had lunch now I’m hungry again!

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    1. Thanks so much, Crystal! Glad you liked the post. This was my first time making it so I was definitely nervous. Does Ramsey’s version use pâtè? I’d thought about adding that, but it was hard to find good quality where I am so I opted not to.

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  5. Good to see you back, darling!!! 💖💖 I hear you on the “no drive to read or make things” front… I feel your pain. I really hope that things are going better for you. I know you’ve had a tough time lately.

    I’m glad you liked this book! I was forced to read it for my book club, otherwise I never would have picked it up. Those “thrillers with an unreliable female narrator” books are a dime a dozen and they all suck (personal opinion!) But… I actually really loved this one!! It may have strayed a little from realism towards the end, but the situation itself was real enough to really get me into the story!

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    1. I feel about this genre much the way I feel about chick lit, and you know my opinions on that! 🙂 But like you, I really enjoyed this book. It was super quick, didn’t require a lot of time investment and it really did have some good foodie mentions. I agree about the ending, although I do have to say that the way Grace’s post-traumatic stress manifested itself when she was at the hotel toward the end was extremely well done and really gave me admiration for what a true bastard Jack really was.

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      1. Oh, most defintitely. I was talking more about the way he kept her captive. It started out in believable ways… Then it got to the house he set up and it was like…. Ya. I don’t think real people that the means, time, money, etc. To do something like that… It got a little crazy.

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      2. Yes, I feel you there, though I do also think he had it set up for any poor slob who fell into his web, not her specifically. Must be nice to have enough money to create a torture chamber, right? LOL!

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      3. Oh, and see?? You liked this! MAYBE you should stop condemning a WHOLE GENRE because you haven’t liked something in the past!! It’s like food. Tastes change, or there could just be that perfect book in the genre that would be good for you, my sexy little book snob! 😘💖

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      4. There can occasionally be aberrations in any genre, which this one is. Doesn’t mean I’m going to start reading chick lit, though. Calm yourself, woman. 🙂 And someone has to hold the literary standard in this world……ahem……..against those who read books about bear fucking. Won’t mention names, though. 🙂

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    1. Thank you! I was quite proud of how well it came out. I have never cooked a cut of meat like this before, and with the price of it being what it was, I was a bit nervous. But oh my, it was so delicious and tender.

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      1. …from the photos, a home run. (I’m basically afraid to do a Wellington, presuming highly probable measured failure, without experience.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well I had zero experience before I made this, so I would encourage you to give it a try. I followed Tyler Florence’s method which is very scientific and pretty much guaranteed to give you perfection. I will see if I can find the link and I will post it here for you.

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      3. …but, oh, the difference between cook and cook. (It took time for me to become a discrete one. I’m thinking I’d likely end up with… a bloody Wellington, or an imodium-ed one, or worse – with others at table asking me ‘so, is this turkey meat?’ ecc.)

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      4. The trick is to make certain the meat is both high quality center cut tenderloin, and that its cold cold when you wrap it in the pastry and put it in the oven. Don’t exceed 45 minutes cook time and give it a good 20-30 minutes rest time before cutting into it.

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      5. …I’ll make a deal with myself, and you… when I manage to get a new agent (in… a different life I had a relatively well placed one in NYC, then… stuff happened, and I quit, let go of all that,) I’ll try a wellington….

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