Sometimes you happen upon a dish or a dessert that is so good, so memorable, that you try and try to duplicate it, and doing so is so illusive that you give up. But, maybe a year or two later you try again. There are three such items in my life that I have tried to duplicate. One is a cauliflower dish I had in a little Indian restaurant in London’s Soho. The other is a crisp sugar cookie flavored with honey a grandmother sent one of my dorm mates in college, and the third is a mushroom béchamel soup I had in Stockholm, Sweden almost 50 years ago!
Of course, that was long, long time ago and my husband and I, in our twenties and on a budget, were on a trip to “the Scandinavian countries” – just like that, “countries” which meant that we would have to have three different kinds of currencies. We didn’t want to exchange a lot of money and then have to exchange it back, so we were super frugal.
We arrived in Stockholm on a Sunday and the place was deserted. There was a restaurant open which seemed inviting and we ventured in with our scant krona. Not knowing what to ask for, we asked the waiter to bring us a light supper. He appeared with a huge bowl of something with a silver ladle in it and two soup bowls and spoons. We reluctantly ladled a bit into our bowls and tasted. It was like nothing we had ever had, and delicious. It was light, tasty, and a pale creamy color. We went through the whole bowl of soup stopping from time to time to look at each other in wonder. The bill came to the equivalent of a dollar! I think my husband, ever frugal, remembers the price of the meal with as much fondness as I remember the soup!
This was all at a time when it was next to impossible to buy fresh mushrooms except in specialty groceries stores where we lived – they came in little jars and were considered precious, as in ostentatious. Soon after that, fresh mushrooms were available everywhere and from time to time I thought about that long ago first encounter with something other than cocktail mushrooms.
Last year we spent a week in France in a restaurant kitchen through a program with International Kitchen (click for a link) and one of the things we did was to help with the prep. That is when we learned that mushrooms are better if they are PEELED!!! Frankly, it never would have occurred to me.
Fascinated with peeling mushrooms, and why not? I decided that I would try, yet again, to make the memorable Swedish mushroom béchamel. It was perfect!
- 1 pound mushrooms
- 2 leeks, white part only
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups fat reduced milk, divided
- Peel the mushrooms and slice.
- Cut the leeks into 1/2” slices and wash.
- In a heavy stock pot, melt the butter and add the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the sliced mushrooms the leeks, and the salt & pepper.
- Stir to coat, and cover with a lid. Allow to cook to 9-10 minutes.
- Take the lid off, add the flour, and stir. With the lid off, cook for 4-5 minutes stirring occasionally. This creates a light roux.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 cups of milk to hot, but do not scald.
- Add the hot milk to the mushroom/leek mixture stirring constantly until it is well blended and smooth.
- Add the remaining 2 cups milk.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it all evidence of the mushrooms have disappeared and it reaches a creamy consistency. Or, alternatively, blend the soup in batches using a food processor.
- Return the soup to the stove and heat through.