Mushroom Crack AKA Russian Mushroom Julienne

The Russian House

Dried Mushrooms Hanging from the Stove

A while back, as we were studying about Russian in our chronological journey through history, I decided to research Russian restaurants in the Austin area. I remembered going to a place where we got some fantastic brine pickles and bought a beautiful book on Russian cuisine right after we first moved back to this area in 2007, but we hadn’t been there in many years and found it had closed down. I discovered to my delight that there was, in fact, a different place in downtown Austin that we could try out called (of course) “The Russian House“.

How could you miss that in a phone book or Google search?

I tried so many amazing foods while I was at the Russian House after my eldest and I ventured downtown to this little treasure of a foodie experience… but nothing stole the taste-bud show like the Mushroom Julienne. I was smitten and have been dreaming of mushrooms ever since. How I’ve lived without it for all this time is a mystery of epic proportions. I knew I had to get drastic and find a recipe to make this – even if it took learning to translate Russian.

Funny thing is, my dad says our relatives came over from Russia during the early 1900’s when the Czar was overthrown and migrated to Canada; so chances are, my taste buds are finally finding their true identity now that The Russian House has brought back culinary traces of the “mutherland” (said in my best thick Russian accent) to Austin, TX.

Even the quaint dried mushrooms on their faux fireplace were magical. I could almost imagine I was at my long, long, lost Russian great, great, great, great grandmother’s cottage in the cold winter forest as I sipped my soup. I know she’s long dead by now, but… Just go with me on this.

I’m not sure how it happened, but none of the other people in my family like mushrooms. What’s wrong with them! Maybe none of them got enough Russian blood to really affect their taste buds at all? Poor things. { Я не понимаю }

Here’s what Mushroom Julienne looked like at The Russian House:

Mushroom Julienne at The Russian House

Classical Mushroom Julienne at The Russian House, Austin TX

I’m not much of a bread eater, but I cheated that night. Wouldn’t you? Be honest. French bread and this “spread” of creamy, buttery mushroom goodness is almost a divine appointment. I’ve been coming up blank on what in the world I could pair it with since making it again at home. Don’t worry, though … I’ll figure it out. I would rather just spoon it directly in to my mouth than let the absence of French bread keep us apart.

Another interesting note is that Mushroom Julienne has French ties. Our little waitress (still learning her English) told us that it was like French and Russian together. Or that’s what I gathered she was saying as she mingled in a few Russian words with her explanation. You never know.

I suspect that this dish may have been a Royal sensation influenced by rich visitors from France to the Russian court and somehow the little babushkas in the Russian palace kitchen shared the recipe with their peasant families, making it a national sensation over time. Maybe it could have stopped the Russian revolution if they all had just sat down and shared some crisp, fluffy bread and a heaping spoonful each of this stuff? We’ll never know. This is all my own imagined scenario, but it sounds plausible, right?!

Any self respecting mushroom lover who tries this will be tragically driven to madness if they don’t try to recreate it themselves. It will haunt your dreams or cause you to move within driving distance to downtown Austin. If word of this spreads, the new Russian House motto of “Keep Austin Russian” might just eclipse the tried and true “Keep Austin Weird”.

My French side (which really is nothing more substantial than having the middle name Colette and having a major love affair with butter, chocolate, chicken stock and whipped cream – not in that order or all together) is also overjoyed in discovering this dish. I probably put way too much butter in my first go around of Mushroom Julienne, so please adjust the recipe to your tastes.

Just for kicks, I’ll share what else I ate with this at the Russian restaurant in Austin. If you do decide to go, be sure to try these – they are also worth re-creating. Don’t let the mushrooms derail you totally.

Borscht and Uzbek Plov

Borscht and Uzbek Plov

Borscht is a delicious beet and vegetable soup with bits of meat and a dollop of sour cream on top with herbs or chives. It’s a one of a kind flavor. I loved it. My Slavic was showing pretty fierce as there wasn’t much I didn’t love during the meal at The Russian House. The Uzbek Plov was yummy, too, with lamb, carrots, onions, and a rice pilaf that had hints of cinnamon. Or at least I thought it was cinnamon… my memory is fading – or maybe the details were just crowded out by all these dreams of recreating the Classical Julienne.

It’s OK if you have to drool a little while looking at these images or reading the post. I understand. You’re among friends here.

Kiev Cake at the Russian House in Austin TX

Kiev Cake at the Russian House in Austin TX

Then came the dessert. I probably wouldn’t order this again – but they were out of the Prague Cake. I’m a chocolate kind of gal. This stuff was more like a crunchy waffle cone cake with tons of creamy fillings and icing. I’m not a sugar-lover any more, so this wasn’t for me – much too sweet; although it was pretty on the plate.

After a while of missing the mushrooms, I got serious about finding a recipe online. Blending together a few recipes I found – the ones that I could read in English – I tried to re-create the taste of the Mushroom Julienne at The Russian House to create my own version of this dish. I didn’t have white wine, so I had to make it without it. This won’t happen again – white wine is my “secret ingredient” for most of my favorite dishes. I put it in soups (especially any soup with mushrooms), and lots of chicken dishes. Sometimes I put it on sautéed mushrooms – just white wine, salt and butter. Mmmmm.

Needless to say, the wine isn’t pictured below… nor is the organic grass-fed cream-on-top milk. You could use heavy cream or half-and-half. You just want it to have enough liquid so the mushrooms don’t shrivel too much (or burn) and the thickened “sauce” at the end can be baked and bubbly – a perfect spread for French bread. The cheese I’m using here was a sharp cheddar made with goat’s milk. You could play around with the cheese – almost any white hard or semi-hard cheese would work. Do some research and find out what Russians prefer! That’s what I plan to do.

The Russian House offers cooking classes for some of their dishes (if you sign up for their email notifications) and they recently taught how to cook this. Unfortunately I missed that night because we had too much to do. It was under twenty bucks to learn some authentic Russian culinary tricks, which I felt was a steal.

Hopefully I came somewhere near the mark on the copycat recipe I created. At least my taste buds are tricked into thinking I managed it. Maybe next time they do the Uzbek Plov, I’ll sit in and learn their secret spice mix for that rice. Or maybe I can brush up on some beety Borscht.

Ingredients for Mushroom Julienne

Mushroom Crack AKA Russian Mushroom Julienne
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A Mushroom-Lover's Dream Come True. Faux home made cream of mushroom soup or thick sour-creamy mushroom spread with butter, herbs, and white wine. Goes great spread on French bread.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Russian
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • small carton of mushrooms (or a little less, I only used ¾ carton), about 8-10
  • half to a whole stick of butter, to taste
  • tsp of gluten free flour or arrow root starch
  • 1 tablespoon to ⅛ cup of white wine
  • ¼ cup mix of half and half, cream, or organic cream-on-top milk
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup grated white hard to semi-hard cheese like Gruyeres
  • tsp olive oil to keep butter from burning
  • large clove minced garlic
  • ¼ red onion, chopped fine
  • tsp or so of chopped chives or herb of your choice
  • pink salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • optional: pinch or two of saffron or nutmeg - or both
Instructions
  1. Gather all ingredients. Chop mushrooms, chives, onion, and garlic. Grate fresh cheese.
  2. Heat oil and butter on medium-high and toss in fresh mushrooms, garlic, and onion. Cook until mushrooms are soft, dark, and smell like heaven.
  3. Mix together milk, cream or half-and-half, and sour cream with nutmeg, flour or arrow root starch, and pepper.
  4. Add cream mixture to pan and stir to blend well, preventing milk from burning as it starts to bubble on bottom of pan.
  5. Pour in wine and cook, stirring constantly.
  6. Salt to taste as you continue to stir.
  7. Toss in chives and remove from heat, stir one last time and transfer to small baking dish or casserole pan.
  8. Top with grated cheese and add a bit more of the spice, salt, or pepper if desired.
  9. Bake at 375 for about 15-20 minutes depending on your elevation/oven.
  10. Cool and serve with crackers, French bread, or use as Cream of Mushroom Soup or a delicious topping for chicken.

Here’s what it looks like before you put it in the oven:

Pre-Mushroom Heaven

Pre-Mushroom Heaven

Those white spots are extra dollops of sour cream I put in at the end because one of the Russian videos I watched (and did NOT understand a lick of, by the way), showed them adding an extra layer of sour creamy looking stuff at the end on top – sortof like a noodle-less layered lasagna of mushroom wonder. At least that’s what my brain translated from her pithy slavic lilt.

Sprittibee's Classical Mushroom Julienne

Sprittibee’s Classical Mushroom Julienne

It took a while to come back to earth after sitting down with a few seed crackers and tasting this still warm from the oven. I discovered that this dish – because of the amazing mushroom taste and creaminess – could substitute for cream of mushroom soup in any recipe. The uses for cream of mushroom soup are endless, as any southern cook already knows. Amazing how many of us have Slavic roots! Your next holiday green bean casserole may be transformed into an out of body mushroom experience if you use this instead of Campbell’s (which we don’t use anyway because we like to make things from scratch to avoid preservatives, sugar, white flours, and the like).

If your brain explodes from all that mushroom joy, don’t sue me. I’m warning you. It’s THAT good.

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