Dollinks! After receiving quite a few easy recipes from my little corner of the world, perhaps you feel ready to stretch your culinary abilities! Want to try something a little more more challenging? Do I hear yes? Do I hear no? (Chorus: “Nooooooo!”) Sorry, you missed the deadline for responding! Let us proceed!
My Austrian grandmother used to roll hers paper-thin (“Roll those strudels, baby!”). She worked at the kitchen table, rolling ... rolling ... rolling for what seemed like hours! Oh, wait, those were cigarettes! She bought apfelstrudel on Robson in Vancouver, back when it was a strasse rather than a street. Apple Strudel isn't really all that difficult to make from scratch. I've done it, and survived.
I’d be happy to give you my recipe - better yet, to make it for you - but like many of you, I'm just a little too busy these days to make a dessert that needs three hours’ preparation, that will add one more chin to my two, and will add another three pounds to my already-too-cuddly body.
Today’s guilt-free vegetarian strudel is in quite a different category. Served with a salad, it makes a fancy and elegant vegetarian main course. Sliced into smaller portions, it’s a delicious first course. If you’ve never used commercial phyllo pastry before, you'll be pleased to hear that it has greatly simplified strudel-making. You’ll find it in your grocer’s freezer; thaw it overnight, in your fridge. Phyllo dries out quickly, so keep it covered with a clean, damp tea towel as you work with each sheet.
Potato, Wild Mushroom, and Cambozola Strudel:
To Prepare the Filling:
2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick
⅛ tsp. salt
1 large onion, sliced
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 large portobello mushrooms, diced
3 shitake mushrooms, diced (see Note)
2 sprigs each fresh rosemary and tarragon (I sometimes substitute fresh thyme), chopped
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 oz. (120 grams) Cambozola cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp. sour cream or plain yogurt
5 sheets phyllo pastry
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Pour cold water over potatoes and bring to a boil over high heat. Add salt and reduce heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, until tender, approximately 3 min. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, using a medium skillet over high heat, sauté onion until soft in 1 tbsp. of the olive oil, about 2 min. Add mushrooms and rosemary and sauté for 5 min. more, until mushrooms are golden but still juicy. Remove from heat. Add tarragon (or thyme) and lemon juice.
Combine mushroom mixture with potatoes while both are still warm, breaking the potatoes up gently as you mix. Season to taste, setting aside to cool slightly. Add Cambozola cheese and sour cream or yogurt, combining well.
Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Take one sheet of phyllo, with short side facing you, and brush lightly with olive oil. Place second sheet over top and brush with oil. Repeat with remaining phyllo.
Gently lift and slide onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 20 min., or until golden.
To Prepare the Tomato-Cream Sauce:
½ cup canned tomato sauce
1 tbsp. whipped cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Prepare sauce while strudel is baking. Bring tomato sauce to a boil in small saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low, gradually whisking in cream and stirring until heated through.
Lay potato mixture horizontally along bottom edge of phyllo, leaving 1-inch on each side to tuck phyllo in. Brush egg white along edges of strudel to create seal. Roll away from you like a jelly roll. After first roll, tuck edges in and continue rolling. Brush top of phyllo with the remaining olive oil.
Remove strudel from oven and slice into four portions (as a main course) or into eight portions (as an appetizer a la table*) while still warm. Nap with warm tomato sauce. Serve at once.
Note: I use dehydrated shitake mushrooms. To rehydrate, pour boiling water over the mushrooms and allow to stand 10 min. Drain well before using.
* In the coming weeks, we'll learn even more fancy French cooking expressions such as “le café” and “les sauces.” Vos amis will be amazed and impressed! Your friends will be, too!