06 February 2010

Mushroom Sauce. Perfect with Semmelknödel.

Last week on the Semmelknödel post, I promised you a recipe for mushroom sauce. This is a classic combination in Bavaria and in most cases, the only vegetarian option in traditional restaurants. I'm really not a vegetarian, but I sometimes wonder about the "meatless" menus in restaurants - accompanied by gravy, lard or even bacon. Personally, I think humans are omnivores (just ask a biologist about our teeth sets), but I deeply respect the choices people make. You never know what's really behind it. For example, when I was a teenager, there was a year when just the sight and smell of meat made me feel sick. And it even happens nowadays that I prefer a meatless meal. Just like on other days, I crave a steak. Medium rare.

Note for you fructose malabsorption guys out there: those white mushrooms contain mannite/mannitol and if you can't handle sorbitol you can't handle that one either. Apparently, I can't. Lesson learned.

for 2

250 g / 1/2 pound / 2 cups sliced mushrooms (I used champignons de Paris)
1 small onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 l / 3 cups liquid (half milk, half your favorite broth)
salt and pepper
lemon juice

Wash the mushrooms and peel them. At least, I like to peel them. And yes, you can wash mushrooms with water, they will not soak up all the water. That's an old myth.

Slice the mushrooms and measure generous 2 cups - and freeze the rest. Mushrooms freeze wonderfully. I like to grab a handful of frozen mushrooms for pasta sauces or risotto.

And you'll need and onion, finely chopped.

Heat up a pan on high, then let the butter melt and after that, throw in the mushrooms. If possible, just in one layer. They will draw quite a bit of water - whether you washed them or not. Just keep on cooking until the water evaporates.

That looks about right - the water is gone and the mushrooms are staring to get brown edges. Add the onions and cook them until they are golden and soft.

Now, we're basically making a Béchamel sauce. Just dump in the flour, stir and let it cook in the butter.

This is the point when you can start to add the liquid: there are no lumps of flour left and the butter-flour mixture has a very pale golden color. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add about half a cup of milk and stir quickly - this will thicken up in a couple of seconds. Keep adding small amounts of liquid and stirring until you have a nice thick sauce.
As for the kind of liquid to use: I like half milk, half beef broth. But I would use vegetable broth when I cook for vegetarians. And you could also cook the mushroom skins in water to get a mushroom broth. And if you like an especially creamy sauce, use all milk and add some powdered broth. For a lactose/dairy free version, just leave out the milk entirely. The sauce will not be as creamy and velvety, but delicious nevertheless.

This looks great, now give it a taste and add salt, pepper - and most importantly - lemon juice. No, the milk will not curdle, but this kind of sauce NEEDS some kind of acid or it will taste creamy and flat.
By the way, it's also a myth that reheated mushroom sauce is poisonous. At least, if you follow some simple rules: cool it down quickly (eg by putting the pot into an ice water bath) and keep it covered in the fridge overnight. Eat it the next day or throw it away. 
Serve with Semmelknödel, egg noodles and/or your favorite kind of Schnitzel.


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