I guess it was probably more than a handful of years ago by now that I first stumbled upon mushroom strudel. Prior to that I had only every considered a strudel to be a fruit filled pastry, and usually apple. My partner Kelly and I decided to go out one evening with our sights set on downtown. Living in central Denver, we have so many options when it comes to dining out. We have discovered many places that we love, and yet there are so many more that we have never experienced.
Over the years we have developed a style of dining we refer to as a “pu pu crawl”. We’ve found that instead of diving in to an unfamiliar restaurant head first, we prefer to test the waters a bit by sitting at the bar, having a drink, and sharing an appetizer or two. Then we move on to another place and do the same. It truly makes for an enjoyable evening, and gives us a chance to peruse a few menus, and at the same time get the inside info from the barkeep.
As we were strolling along the restaurants of 17th avenue, the lights of the Avenue Grill beckoned us. So we popped in, found a couple of seats, introduced ourselves to the bartender (Always introduce yourself to the bartender), and secured an icy adult beverage. With drinks in hand and after a quick toast, our attention turned to the menu. It was humorous that we simultaneously landed on the same item, the mushroom strudel. With a nod of approval from our server, the order was placed. What a fantastic dish! Neither one of us could remember enjoying an appetizer as much as the one placed before us. So the very next day we started working on our own version, and the rest is…..as they say, history.
Cooks note: I use packaged phllyo dough as I am not gifted enough at this point to make my own, but feel free if you are. Place the plastic sleeve of dough on the counter for at least 4 hours to warm to room temperature before starting. An assortment of mushrooms makes the best filling. Use any or all that you like and are readily available. There are also many great varieties of dried mushrooms which are wonderful, simply re-hydrate then in warm water.
- 1½ – 2 pounds mushrooms (Portobello, shiitake, wood ear, crimini, white button)
- 3 tablespoon shallot, finely diced
- 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoon toasted walnuts, finely chopped (optional)
- 1/4 cup creme sherry
- 4 – 6 ounces triple cream brie, cut into small cubes
- 6 – 8 sheet phllyo dough, at room temperature (I like Pepperidge Farms)
- 1/2 cup butter melted
I start by admiring all of the beautiful mushrooms on my cutting board. It is seldom I ever have so many and such an assortment. OK I know I am strange.
Sort through the mushrooms brushing off any dirt, remove all stems and set aside. Use a spoon to remove the gills from the caps of the Portobello. Slice the tops of the mushrooms into about 1/4″ slices. I like to vary the size a bit to add some visual texture. Large caps like the Portobello can be cubed. Remember mushroom drastically reduce in size when cooked. Finely dice the stems and place in a small bowl separate from the tops.
Prepare the shallot by finely dicing. Strip the leaves from the fresh thyme, and finely chop.
Add the butter and olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the mushrooms (cooking mushrooms is similar to cooking spinach, the pan may seem full, don’t worry it will dramatically reduce). Give the mushrooms a careful toss to coat with the oil. Add 2 tablespoons of the fresh thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook the mushroom, stirring occasionally. When the mushrooms have reduces by half, add the finely diced mushroom stems, and the Dijon to the skillet. Continue to cook until all of the liquid has escaped from the mushrooms, and has been reduced to a thick syrup (almost to the point of sticking). This process will probably take at least 30 minutes (Cooking time will vary depending on the type of mushrooms used at their water content).
Add the creme sherry to the pan to deglaze the wonderful mushroom essence, and continue cooking until the liquor has reduced to a thick gravy (It is important that the filling not be “watery” or too wet or it will not work in the pastry). Add the remaining tablespoon of fresh thyme and stir to combine. Transfer the mushrooms from the skillet into a bowl and allow to cool. It is important that the filling be cooled to room temperature before working with the pastry dough.
If nuts are desired, toast them in a dry skillet. Allow to cool, finely dice, and add to the filling. Nuts add another layer of flavor and texture, however they are not crucial to the outcome of this dish. The strudel will be fantastic either way.
Heat oven to 350° F, and position rack in the center of the oven.
Once the filling is completely cooled, taste and adjust salt and pepper if desired (who am I kidding, by now you have most likely eaten two or three spoonfuls already).
Melt the stick of butter in the microwave. Lay the sheets of phllyo dough on a piece of parchment paper. Working quickly, fold the phllyo in half like a book, but do not crease. Starting on one half, open each page of the book and brush with the melted butter. Unfold the next layer smooth out the dough with your hand, and butter (Using your hand to lightly smooth the sheet helps to make sure you have an even layer of butter between the sheets). Repeat until all the layers are buttered. Do not butter the top sheet. When you have reached the top sheet, fold over the other direction and repeat.
The sheet of dough are slightly rectangular, so place the cooled filling down the center third of the long direction of the dough. Evenly spread the cubes of brie over the top of the filling. Using a sharp knife, cut strips about 1½ inches wide from the edge of the filling outwards in both directions. Keep the cuts in line from side to side. Begin at the bottom and fold the first strip on the right side over the dough at a slight angle upward, then repeat with the left. Continue until all the filling is covered. Brush the top with butter, evenly coating all surfaces. Be sure to do the sides as well.
Use the parchment paper to lift the strudel onto a baking sheet. Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the top is golden.
Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Strudel can be served warm, or at room temperature. Either way is delicious. Serve with a stove ground mustard or a berry coulis. Enjoy!!
To prepare a Berry Coulis:
Cooks note: I personally love the way the berry works with the mushroom and the brie. I made this particular coulis with Thanksgiving in mind. This recipe will yield about a third of a cup of coulis which can be stored in the fridge for several weeks.
- 8 ounces black berries
- 8 ounces cranberries
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoon brandy
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Place the berries, water, lemon juice, and thyme in a small sauce pan and cover. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Allow the mixture to reduce by half. Using a food mill or mesh strainer and the back of a spoon, press all of the liquid from the seeds and skins. Return the liquid to the small sauce pan and simmer, add the brandy and pepper. Reduce to a syrup. Place in fridge to cool and finish thickening.