I have a problem with casseroles—as a result of having too many as a child. However, Jan really likes them and she has been asking me to make some recently. Jan is hosting this year’s Ladies Christmas Get-together and some of her friends are vegetarian and noodle lovers. I thought that a mushroom and noodle dish would fit the bill.
Dried mushrooms can give a dish a deep umami flavor. However, they tend—even after re-hydrating—to be a bit leathery and chewy. By powdering the dried mushrooms, you get the flavor without the textural problems.
Karl’s Mushroom Parmesan Casserole
6 oz. wide noodles, dried
1 tsp. Kosher salt, separate uses
4-6 tbs. butter, separate uses
½ lb. Crimini mushrooms
½ cup shallots, minced
2 stalks celery, diced finely
1 Tbs. dried Porcini mushrooms, powdered
1 Tbs. dried Bay Bolete mushrooms, powdered
½ tsp. thyme
½ tsp. black pepper, to taste
3 Tbs. flour
2 cups whole milk
½ cup Parmesan cheese, gratted
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
½+ cup flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped
¼ cup red bell pepper, diced finely
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add half a teaspoon of salt and the noodles. Simmer until they are just al dente.
Tip: You are going to bake the noodles later, so you do not want them to be overdone.
2. Clean and quarter the Crimini mushrooms and set them aside.
3. Mince the shallots and dice the celery finely. Set the vegetables aside.
4. Use a spice grinder to powder the dried mushrooms. Stir the mushroom powder into ½ cup of hot water and set it aside to re-hydrate.
5. Melt three tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium high heat. Sauté the mushrooms with half a teaspoon of salt until they are starting to brown well, about five minutes.
6. Add the shallots and celery to the pan. Continue sautéing for two more minutes.
7. Stir in the thyme, pepper and the mushroom liquid. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about three minutes.
8. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool slightly.
9. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
10. Melt the remaining three tablespoons of butter in a small sauce pan. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, to make a light roux, about three minutes.
Tip: The longer you cook a roux the darker it will get. For this dish you want it to be fairly pale, but you do not want the taste of raw flour.
11. Put the milk in the microwave and heat it on high for one minute.
Tip: This step is not really necessary, but if you add cold milk to the roux it will clump up and it will be harder to make a smooth sauce.
12. Slowly add the milk to the roux while stirring constantly.
13. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, mustard and Worcestershire sauce and continue cooking the sauce until it is starting to thicken, about two minutes.
14. Stir the noodles and most of the parsley to the mushroom mixture.
15. Pour 2/3 of the sauce over all and gently fold the mixture together to coat everything with the sauce.
Tip: If your pan is oven proof, you may bake the casserole directly in the pan.
16. Transfer the mixture to a buttered (or Pam-ed) casserole dish and smooth it out with a spatula.
17. Pour the remaining sauce evenly over the casserole and garnish the top with the red bell peppers.
Note: If you must, you may top the casserole with buttered bread crumbs before you add the peppers. I personally do not think that is necessary.
18. Bake the casserole for 30-40 minutes, until it is starting to brown on top.
19. Remove the casserole from the oven and let it cool for ten minutes.
20. Garnish with the remaining parsley and serve.