"I am... a mushroom; On whom the dew of heaven drops now and then." ~John Ford
I developed this recipe over time, initially as a replacement for Campbell's Mushroom Soup, and then continued to adapt it further depending upon the dietary needs of my guests. The Campbell's Mushroom Soup was thinned and drizzled over a vegetarian patty recipe that my Mom made back in the 70's during a brief flirtation with vegetarianism that was met with resistance by we sisters. While the diet choice didn't last, our love for the vegetarian patty did. I was quite happy with the dish until one day in the early 90s I finally read the ingredients list on the soup can. I immediately felt compelled to make a sauce from scratch. I favored serving the vegetarian patties with mashed potatoes, so I wanted to create a sauce that would be ideal for garnishing both the patties and the fluffy potatoes.
One thing led to another and I eventually began serving my homemade mushroom sauce with beef and chicken. My family also enjoys it as a delicious "ragu" for wide egg noodles. One serendipitous evening I quickly assembled an impromptu Shepard's Pie using leftovers. I started by sautéing fresh vegetables, then added cold, grilled diced steak and the mushroom sauce, and finished by topping the dish with a thick layer of two day old mashed potatoes. When I pulled the piping hot dish from the oven, no one would have guessed it was a convenient way for me to clear the refrigerator of leftovers.
The sauce earns bonus points because it keeps well in the refrigerator and reheats beautifully over low heat. I often make a vegetarian version of the sauce during the holidays and will serve it alongside a turkey giblet gravy. It's also easy to make delicious mashed potatoes without dairy, which I will also serve next to my fully loaded buttermilk infused mashed potatoes. Having both options for a big crowd is ideal. The vegetarians and dairy intolerant will be even more grateful than the carnivores at the table to be able to enjoy favorite comfort foods of the holiday season.
Michelle's Mushroom Sauce (Traditional and Gluten-Free)
Due to the saltiness of both the tamari and chicken (or vegetable) broth, I rarely find the need to add extra sea salt to the sauce. If you prefer to make the recipe without using butter and flour (all-purpose or gluten-free rice) you can use cornstarch instead. If you are opting for the butter and flour, the recipe is started by making a roux to thicken the sauce. If you are choosing the cornstarch route, a water and cornstarch slurry is the thickening agent and is added towards the end of the cooking process.
I find that the tamari or soy sauce is the most important ingredient in this recipe. Fermented and aged products, such as soy sauce, fish sauce, parmesan cheese and tomato paste, are all foods with natural umami flavors. Demi-glacé, my favorite subject on the blog this month, is also a umami flavor bomb, and sometime I'll slip a cube into the sauce for extra depth of flavor.
1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds mushrooms, such as button or baby Portobello, cleaned and sliced
1-1/2 to 2 Tbsps olive oil
3 to 4 shallots or one-half small yellow onion, peeled and minced, about 1/4 to 1/3 cup
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 large pinch chili flakes
5 Tbsps butter, preferably unsalted (alternatively, the sauce can be thickened with cornstarch)
1/4 cup Mochiko Blue Star Brand sweet rice flour (gluten-free) or all-purpose flour
about 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth, divided use
1/3 cup brandy, I use E&J brand for this recipe
1/3 cup tamari (made without wheat and gluten-free) or soy sauce
2 tsps freshly crumbled thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 frozen cube demi-glacé, optional
2 Tbsps minced fresh Italian parsley, optional
sea salt, to taste, if needed
|Minced garlic on the left and shallots on the right.|
1. Heat butter or olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add minced shallots or onion and a pinch of chili flakes. Sauté until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. If using flour as a thickening agent, stir it in and cook for one to two minutes, stirring constantly until the flour is fully incorporated into the butter.
2. Add the garlic and cook for a minute until softened, but not browned. Slowly add 3 cups of the chicken or vegetable, while continuing to stir. Add brandy and tamari (or soy sauce). Add mushrooms to the pot. Sometimes I add the mushroom a few cups at a time, let reduce (the mushrooms will shrink), and then add more until all the sliced mushrooms are added to the liquid.
3. Continue to stir occasionally until sauce is thickened. Add a few grinds of black pepper. Add frozen cube of demi-glacé, if using. Add additional chicken or vegetable broth to thin the sauce, if needed.
4. If thickening the sauce with cornstarch, in a small cup combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water and stir until smooth. After all the mushrooms are added to the saucepan, pour in the slurry. Stir well. Continue to stir occasionally until sauce is thickened. Add additional chicken or vegetable broth to thin the sauce, if needed.
5. Once the sauce is suitably thick and bubbling, reduce the heat to low and stir every once in awhile until ready to serve. Just before serving, add the thyme and parsley. Taste for seasoning, and add additional sea salt and ground pepper, if needed.
|Mushroom Sauce is the perfect accompaniment to mashed potatoes.|