Last week, there was a frost in Wisconsin. The next morning, I actually turned the heat on in my car. Maybe I'm a little bit of a wimp (it still got to 57 degrees that day), but all I wanted to do all day was curl up in a down comforter and eat something mushroom-based. Because, for some reason, mushrooms solve my cold weather blues.
So, after perusing the Internet for inspiration, I saw a recipe for a wild mushroom strudel accompanied by arugula pesto. I did not have a wide assortment of mushrooms on hand, nor did I have any arugula, so I improvised and ended up with my own original recipe.
First, I chopped fresh herbs (using fresh herbs in this is a must, which makes it an excellent dish to make in early fall/late summer, when fresh herbs are still available at markets and in gardens). I also chopped a whole bunch of cremini (or baby portabella) mushrooms. This is not a quick recipe, but you can make it a whole lot quicker by buying pre-chopped mushrooms. I usually frown on that, but this recipe is very good and ever so slightly too time consuming. So, you know, buy the pre-chopped mushrooms. I recognize that you have things on your to do list that trump making dinner, from time to time. Or, if you're really busy and still need mushroom-y goodness, make this very quick wild rice pilaf. I digress.
This strudel recipe is also an excellent opportunity to conquer a fairly straightforward ingredient that many home cooks fear: phyllo dough. You know what I'm talking about--you eat it whenever you go to your favorite Greek restaurant and dream about being able to recreate the spanakopita at home. Maybe even baklava (okay, even I'm afraid of that recipe). But that crispy, flaky dough seems like it would take hours to work with and would be quite finicky. As it turns out, phyllo dough is super easy to work with. Shh...let's keep it our little secret. For a video instruction of how to do it, view this handy video. My only note on phyllo dough is that if you buy it frozen (and I encourage you to do so), it has to thaw in the refrigerator overnight and on the counter for two hours after that. This is not a recipe to make on a whim. But, it is delicious and warming and somehow brings my two favorite seasons together; pesto tastes like summer, and mushrooms wrapped in delightful pastry taste like fall. This is the perfect September meal. Enjoy!
Cremini Mushroom Strudel with Pesto
By Alexandra Rogers
5 Tablespoons butter
1-2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup shallots, diced
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, minced
3 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
24 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
6 sheets of phyllo pastry (fresh phyllo pastry or frozen thawed)
If using frozen thawed phyllo pastry, you must place the frozen pastry in the fridge overnight, and remove the pastry from the fridge 2 hours before use on the day of. So, by the time you start the rest of this recipe, the phyllo dough needs to be sitting on the counter!
In a large skillet, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Once the pan is hot and the butter is melted, add shallots, garlic, basil, rosemary and 2 teaspoons thyme. Let cook for 2 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Add mushrooms (the pan will seem far too crowded, but just go with it). Saute for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender.
Remove the mushrooms from heat, and set aside to cool. Salt to taste (I used less than half a teaspoon).
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a small baking sheet.
Melt 3 Tablespoons butter in the microwave (this should take a little less than 30 seconds).
Place kitchen towel on work surface and top with 1 phyllo sheet. Brush that sheet with melted butter and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Top that phyllo sheet with another phyllo sheet, brush with butter and sprinkle with another 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Repeat until the phyllo dough is 6 sheets high. You can find a bit more guidance on how to work with phyllo dough here.
Spoon mushroom mixture into the middle of the phyllo dough street. Fold the longer sides over the mushroom mixture (almost like you're wrapping a present), and then roll up the dough, jelly roll style. Roll as evenly as you can, and when complete, place the roll seam down on the greased baking sheet.
Brush the top and sides of the roll with butter and sprinkle with any remaining thyme. Put the roll in your preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown all around (including the middle of the strudel).
Let cool for 3-4 minutes, then slice with a serrated knife to serve. Garnish with fresh pesto (I used 1-2 Tablespoons/slice) and serve. Serves 4.