August 29, 2009
by Gareth Mark
I love mushrooms of all sorts, and I enjoy using them in all sorts of ways, even in dessert. But I'd never thought about making a savoury strudel until I decided I needed a new side dish for Fall. It's much easier than it sounds: make duxelles, wrap in phyllo, then bake until done.
To make duxelles you'll need: about a pound of mushrooms; 2-4 shallots; minced parsely or other fresh herbs; extra virgin olive oil; clarified butter; and cream, sour cream, or crème fraîche. You can make duxelles without butter, but it certainly won't taste quite as good. I can't imagine it without crème fraîche, either, but if you want to avoid dairy completely, you can just leave it out.
Clean and chop the mushrooms. You'll find all sorts of silliness out there about not washing mushrooms. If you have dirty mushrooms, and the dirt doesn't just brush off, go right ahead and rinse them under cold running water. Just don't let the 'shrooms soak or have any reasonable chance to absorb water. Set the chopped mushrooms aside.
Next, dice the shallots. You can do a fine dice if you wish, but what really matters is consistent size. Preheat a sauté pan on medium heat with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil, add the shallots, and sauté until translucent. Then add the chopped mushrooms, the herbs, and some salt and freshly ground pepper.
It's very important to season early so that you don't have to use too much salt. Moreover, early seasoning produces more profound flavors.
Stir the mixture frequently while it sautés. When the pan starts to dry out, add some clarified butter, not too much, but enough to avoid burning. You'll continue to sauté until the mushrooms give up their water. At that point you might add some wine if you have an open bottle. Red or white really doesn't matter.
Continue sautéing until the pan is dry again. If you're using crème fraîche or another dairy product, add it at this point. You'll use enough to wet the mixture, but not enough to make it soupy. Reduce for a minute or two until the mixture begins to dry out. Set aside to cool. After the duxelles has cooled to near room temperature, taste and adjust the seasoning.
To assemble the strudel, you'll need phyllo dough, clarified butter or olive oil, and parchment paper. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a sheet or cookie pan. Lay down one sheet of dough, brush with butter, then repeat until you have used at least seven sheets. Spoon the duxelles onto the dough about a third of the way from the edge. Carefully fold the short side of the dough over the duxelles, then roll the strudel and seal with the butter.
Using a serrated knife, carefully cut slits in the top of the pastry. If you wish, sprinkle some kosher or sea salt on top--I used a mixture of fleur de sel and porcini powder. Bake in a 350°F/180°C oven until done, generally 20-30 minutes.
As you probably know, duxelles is useful for all sorts of seasoning tasks, and can be served as a side dish on its own. It also freezes well and will last for 1-2 months.