Mushroom julienne is a dish made with sautéed mushrooms (preferably, wild) combined with sour cream or béchamel sauce and baked in small individual ramekins or cocottes under a cheese crust. It's one of those treats, eating of which is always accompanied by joyful moaning and multiple "OMG" exclamations. No exaggeration here!
Julienne is quite rich, so a small serving is enough to enjoy it. It’s served as a hot appetizer and I prefer to eat it with a teaspoon.
In the cooking language, julienne means a knife cut resembling a matchstick. Small, long and thin. You usually see this cut applied to carrots, daikon, potatoes, sometimes meats, but not mushrooms. It’s challenging to cut mushrooms this way and I have no idea how and why this dish has come to be widely known in Russia as mushroom julienne. But this is how it is.
Julienne was definitely inspired by French gratins, but in Russia cream and béchamel are often replaced by more traditional sour cream. I made juliennes with both béchamel and sour cream and cannot tell which I liked better. So I’ll give both versions for you to try.
You will need:
- 14-16 oz sautéed wild mushrooms like chanterelles, black trumpets, porcini or other*
- 1-2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Optional: a handful of blanched spinach (in addition to or instead of shallots)
(a) Sour cream sauce
- 1 Tbsp flour
- 5 oz sour cream
- 3-4 Tbsp whipping cream
- 2-3 Tbsp oil or butter or mixture of both, for sauteing
- Water, as needed
- About ½ cup grated cheese, like mild gouda or light cheddar or some parmesan
(b) Mornay sauce (Bechamel with cheese):
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp flour
- 2/3 – 1 cup milk (2%, whole or half-n-half, it’s up to you)
- A pinch of grated nutmeg
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- About ¼ cup grated parmesan or pecorino plus 3 Tbsp to sprinkle on top
*If wild mushrooms are not in season, take a combination of sautéed crimini and shiitake mushrooms. The best and the cheapest shiitake are sold in Asian supermarkets (they have a different kind of shiitake, with thick crackled cups, soft edible stems and strong taste reminiscent of wild mushrooms)
During the chanterelle season I buy, sauté and freeze as many as I can so we can enjoy them all year round. For sautéed chanterelles, take nice dry mushrooms and clean them with a soft brush, damp paper towel and compressed air duster (the latter comes in handy when cleaning the gills from dirt). Don’t submerge the mushrooms in water because they will absorb water like a sponge and their texture will become chewy.
In a wide pan, heat several tablespoon of oil or a mixture of oil and butter. Sauté the chanterelles for 3-4 minutes, season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. If the mushrooms are wet from the rains, you can let them air dry day for about 12 hours on paper towel or newspaper. Still, they can release some liquid when frying and in this case let it evaporate on a high heat and then let the mushrooms brown slightly. On the other hand, when mushrooms are too dry, add a splash of white wine and let it boil away on a medium high heat.
For the julienne with sour cream, sauté shallots until tender and translucent. Add garlic, if using, and in a half a minute stir in flour. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two, then add sour cream and cream. Thin the mixture out with a splash or two of water or broth (mushroom, vegetable or chicken) and cook the sauce until it thickens, about 3-4 minutes.
Stir in the mushrooms, parsley and ¼ cup of cheese. Remove from the heat.
For the julienne with béchamel, sauté shallots and garlic together with chanterelles or separately. In a sauce pan on a medium heat, melt butter and sprinkle it with flour. Stir them together with a whisk for about 10-15 seconds without letting the flour change color to darker than beige. Slowly add milk while keeping whisking. Bring the sauce to a simmer, still working with a whisk, then reduce the heat to a low and cook for about 5 more minutes until it gets pretty thick. Stir in the cheese. Season the sauce with salt and a bit of grated nutmeg, remove it from the heat and combine with the mushrooms.
Divide the chanterelles between the ramekins (remember, 1/3 of a cup is quite a generous treat) and sprinkle each with the rest of cheese. Arrange the ramekins on a baking sheet and put into the oven preheated to 425 F. Bake the juliennes for about 10-15 minutes or until bubbly. Let rest about 5 minutes before serving.
For large parties, I make julienne in one big and deep baking dish.