We’ve thought of making something like this for several months, so why did it take us so long? Partly because we needed to get some more dried wild mushrooms, and partly because we were waiting for the weather to cool off a bit before tackling the pastry crust. But everything came together this past Sunday, and we made up this wild mushroom strudel.
We’re not sure where we even got the idea for this wild mushroom strudel. It didn’t really come from a recipe that we have; instead, the idea for it just sort of happened over a period of weeks. Now, that isn’t to say that it sprang fully formed from our brains; it’s quite likely that, inadvertently, we were influenced by recipes we’ve seen over the years, but we really can’t point to any one in particular as the source. So, we’ll lay claim to it, and say it’s a scratchin’ original.
Serves 6 to 8.
Puff pastry can be tricky to make, but, once you’ve made it several times, it becomes rather fun, what with the folding and rolling of the dough. Plus, the recipe scales up nicely, so, the last time we made puff pastry, we quadrupled the recipe (1 pound butter, 1 pound flour), and froze it in 1/2-pound chunks. Now, we only need to remove a piece from the freezer the day before we plan to use some. If you’re not up to making puff pastry, we read that there’s good puff pastry available in the grocer’s freezer; we’ve never tried any, so we can’t recommend a specific brand. For the mushrooms, we used a mix of dried shitake, dried porcini, dried oyster, and fresh button mushrooms. While you could use just buttons and crimini mushrooms, you’ll miss out on that great woodsy flavor. For the wine, use something you like; we used Pinot Grigio, but a red wine would work nicely, too. Finally, we did go to the trouble of picking up a shallot, just for this dish; we wanted something milder than onion, although that would work, too.
Procedure in detail:
Rehydrate mushrooms. Place all the dried mushrooms in a large heat-proof bowl and cover with 2 cups or so of boiling water. Cover the bowl to hold in the heat. Let the mushrooms stand for at least 30 minutes.
Drain and chop. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Since dried mushrooms often still have grit clinging to them, we like to pick out the mushroom pieces, swishing them in the broth or rinsing them as we go. After we’ve removed most of the pieces, we filter the liquid through a coffee filter to trap the grit. We really don’t enjoy biting down on a piece of sand, so we always filter the broth. Once the mushrooms are drained, chop off any tough stems and cut the mushrooms into pieces about 1/2 inch on a side.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. We didn’t use a silicone baking mat for this, as it can insulate the bottom of the strudel from the heat, making for a soggy crust.
Cook shallots and garlic. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter, swirling to coat the pan, and, when it starts to get foamy, add the shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the shallots are tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Cook mushrooms. Stir the mushrooms, both the dried and the fresh, into the shallots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re tender and golden, about another 10 minutes.
Add wine. Pour the wine over the mushrooms. Wine not only adds flavor, but it brings out flavors that are soluble in alcohol, so it really does double duty. Let everything simmer and bubble, until the wine is reduced by about half, 5 minutes.
Add some broth. Pour in about a cup, or roughly half, of the reserved broth, and let everything cook, stirring often, until almost dry, about 10 minutes.
Whisk flour into broth. Add the flour to the remaining broth and whisk it until it’s smooth and no lumps remain (you don’t want lumps of flour in your filling), then immediately pour it into the mushroom mixture. Stirring constantly, cook until thickened with little liquid remaining, about 5 minutes.
Season and stand. Stir in the thyme, then taste and add salt and pepper as needed. We listed the amount of salt that we found to work, but let your taste be the guide. Once seasoned, remove from heat and let stand.
Roll out dough. On a lightly-floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 18 x 12 inches. It you have one, transfer the dough to a silicone baking mat, or a piece of parchment. It will make it easier to transfer the strudel once it’s assembled.
Add filling. Spoon the filling right down the center of the puff pastry dough, then fold up the ends and sides to seal it.
Transfer. Carefully lift the strudel, and roll it off the baking mat onto the prepared baking pan, rolling it so the seam side is down.
Slash. Using a knife or a razor blade, carefully make slashes across the strudel so the mushrooms show through. It not only looks nice, but it will allow steam to escape while it bakes. Another measure to help prevent soggy crust.
Bake. Slide the strudel into the oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and golden brown.
Serve. Slice and serve immediately.
We’re thinking of making this for a dinner meeting next month, and, since we pretty much made up the recipe, we wanted to do a trial run to test it and see how it could be improved. We really liked it. The mushroom filling had a nice woodsy taste, and, with the mix of mushrooms, there were some that still had a chewy, meaty texture. In retrospect, we might even cut back a bit on the amount of filling, perhaps using only half the amount for the strudel. The crust didn’t quite puff as much as we would have liked; we might try placing cold filling on the puff pastry (so the butter doesn’t melt in advance), or even brushing it lightly with butter next time. That said, the crust was crispy and light, the way things made with puff pastry should be, so we’re glad we went to the trouble of making up the dough the day prior. This mushroom strudel is well worth the five stars we give it, even though it does take some effort to make the puff pastry.