Last winter I made a Layered Wild Mushroom and Blini Casserole in an attempt to recreate a gluten free version of my favourite dish from the long ago closed House of Blini on East 86th street in Manhattan. For the full story about the inspirations click here. The version last year used wild mushrooms and blini made with teff flour. It looked particularly elegant stacked into a cake. This new version is much closer to the origional, made with less expensive mushrooms, pillowy chewy sourdough blini (gluten-free or not) and more cheese. You could not stack this up into an elegant cake thing. This is a comforting, creamy baked casserole. Serve it with borscht.
You can make this gluten-free or not, but either way you need a sourdough starter. I have found this recipe useful when my sourdough starter gets out of control big and I make a bunch of sourdough blini to cut it down to size. It is okay if the blini that you put in this casserole have sat in the fridge for a few days before you have time to put them into this casserole.
BLINI MUSHROOM CASSEROLE
- 5 Tablespoons olive oil, butter, bacon grease or duck fat (divided in half)
- 16 oz of cremini or baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 2 Tablespoons marsala (optional)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh dill snipped or minced
- 2 large red onion, halved and then thinly sliced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 1/2 cup chestnut flour (all purpose white flour if you are not gluten-fee. You could try using rice flour instead but the chestnut flour is REALLY good)
- 2 and 1/2 cups of milk (warm or at least at room temperature)
- 1 recipe gluten free sourdough blini or the not gluten free blini from The Winter Guest. Make each blini with 2/3 cups. This should give you 4 large blini.
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino (or parmesan)
- nutmeg to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- another heaping half cup of parmesan or pecorino to sprinkle between the layers and on top
- Heat 2 and 1/2 Tablespoons of the oil or butter over medium high heat in a very wide skillet. Add the mushrooms with a bit of salt and saute until the mushrooms have released their liquid and the liquid has almost completely cooked away.
- When the mushrooms begin to sizzle, add the marsala and turn the heat up to high. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the booze cooks away.
- Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and add the fresh dill.
- In the same wide skillet, heat the remaining 2 and 1/2 tablespoon of oil of butter. Add the onions and saute over medium low heat with a bit of salt and pepper for about an hour. The goal is to get them caramelized and reduced until they look like they are equal in volume to the mushrooms. While the onions cook you can make the chestnut white sauce.
- Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir the chestnut flour into the melted butter. It will seize into a ball. Slowly add the warm milk, while whisking vigerously. Whisk the mixture until it is totally smooth and for a bit longer while it thickens a bit. Remove it from the heat and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
- When the onions are done combine them with the mushrooms.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a deep casserole with some butter. I use a soufle dish.
- Place a blini or pieces of torn blini in a single layer in the bottom of the casserole. Top that with 2/3 cup of mushroom onion mixture followed by a 1/8 cup sprinkle of cheese and finally a scant 2/3 cup of the chestnut sauce. Spread the sauce with a spatula so that it fills in all the gaps. Repeat this layering of blini, mushrooms, cheese and sauce until your ingredients are gone . Sprinkle another 1/8 cup of cheese on top and bake for 45 minutes or until it is bubbling hot and golden on top. Serve it hot, with Borscht.