Scandinavians are avid foragers. From berries to mushrooms to wild greens, foraging is a very popular activity in the Nordic countries. This enduring custom also finds its way into the recipes of the region, many of which call for wild edibles as ingredients.
Whether you enjoy hunting for wild mushrooms or simply prefer to pick them up at the local grocery store (like me), this delicious and easy Mushroom Gratin is a wonderful dish to showcase their earthy goodness.
Creamy, thyme-infused mushrooms covered with crispy, buttery bread crumbs and baked until golden brown and bubbly, this Mushroom Gratin brings comfort and warmth to the table. It makes a delicious side dish as part of a cozy supper (think roast chicken or pan-seared steak), or this gratin can easily stand on it's own as a vegetarian main, maybe paired with a simple salad or some sautéed greens.
Why This Recipe Works
- It uses easy to find cremini or white button mushrooms;
- Fresh thyme and just the right amount of heavy cream gently coat the mushrooms in a velvety, savory sauce; and
- Soft white bread crumbs create the buttery, crispy top that so perfectly contrasts with the saucy mushrooms below.
- Mushrooms. The star of the show in this dish. Feel free to use meaty cremini mushrooms as I have here, or even simple white mushrooms are a delicious and readily available option. Should you be the foraging type and happen to have some wild mushrooms (such as morels) on hand, they would be delicious in this gratin as well. Or do a combination of different types of mushrooms! Any and all of these options will work well.
- Fresh Thyme. Thyme and mushrooms go very well together. If you don't have fresh thyme, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of dried thyme for the 2 teaspoons of fresh.
- White Wine. White wine adds a welcome, balanced acidity to the creamy sauce.
- White Bread. You can certainly use any bread here, but soft white bread crumbs become so delightfully crisp when tossed with butter and browned. It is my bread of choice for this recipe. That said, sourdough or a rustic country loaf would work just fine as well.
How to Make This Recipe
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and butter a 2 quart baking dish. Set aside.
- Wash the mushrooms and cut them into quarters. Mince the shallot and the fresh thyme.
- Tear the bread into quarters and place it in the work bowl of your food processor. Pulse until crumbs form. Transfer a heaping cup of crumbs to a bowl.
- Melt the butter over medium heat. Remove 1 tablespoon of the melted butter and drizzle it over the breadcrumbs. Toss with a fork to distribute it evenly.
- Add the minced shallots to the pan with the remaining melted butter. Cook until translucent and beginning to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until they are tender and brown, about 10 more minutes. Add the thyme and stir to combine.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the wine and continue cooking until it has nearly evaporated, about 1 more minute. Add the water and cream and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer the mushrooms to the prepared 2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with buttered breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the gratin is bubbly around the edges and the breadcrumb topping is golden brown. Serve and enjoy!
- Clean your mushrooms thoroughly. There is some debate in the culinary world over whether or not you should wash mushrooms or, alternatively, simply brush them off with a kitchen or paper towel. There is no harm in washing mushrooms and, in fact, it will make it easier to thoroughly remove any soil or grit.
- Cook the flour for a full minute, stirring constantly. If you don't allow the flour to cook with the butter prior to adding the wine, water and cream, the sauce will have a raw flour taste. Be sure to give it that minute to cook through.
- Salt and pepper the mushroom mixture to taste prior to covering it with the breadcrumbs. This is your chance to make sure the seasoning of the mushrooms is perfect. The only way to know for sure is to try them. Get out your tasting spoon and make sure it's just right.
A gratin is a dish in which the main component is covered with breadcrumbs, cheese, egg and/or butter and baked in a shallow dish. The term is French in origin and stems from the word "gratter" which means to scrape or grate.
If you have an ovenproof skillet, feel free to simply sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top of the mushroom mixture while it is still in the skillet and bake it straightaway. Should you go this route, consider adding some extra breadcrumbs to accommodate the larger surface on the top (your skillet is most likely wider than a 2 quart baking dish).
Yes! Simply prepare the creamy mushroom mixture and the unbaked buttered breadcrumbs and store them separately, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. When you are ready to bake, reheat the mushroom mixture on the stove and proceed with the recipe from there. If the mushroom filling seems dry, add a splash or two of water to achieve a pleasantly creamy consistency.
It is partially due to a Scandinavian law known as allemansrätten, which translates to "every man’s right" or "freedom to roam". This means there are no trespassing laws and everyone is free to enjoy the use of the land, including foraging whatever tasty edibles might grow there. Couple allemansrätten with the fact that the Nordic countries have an ideal habitat for many wild edible foods, and you can understand why there is a long tradition of foraging in Scandinavia.
Please give this simple Mushroom Gratin a try! I know you'll love it. It makes a delicious Nordic-inspired side dish or vegetarian main event. Looking for more tasty mushroom recipes? I've got several for you here on the blog:
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter divided, plus more for buttering the baking dish
- 1 heaping cup fresh bread crumbs from white sandwich bread, sourdough or a country loaf
- 2 pounds cremini or white button mushrooms washed and quartered
- 2 small shallots minced
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons all-pupose flour
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Butter a 2 quart baking dish and set aside. Place breadcrumbs in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat a 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium and add butter. Once butter has melted, transfer one tablespoon to the small bowl with the breadcrumbs. Stir with a fork to combine.
- Add shallot to the remaining butter in the pan and saute until soft and translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms, increase heat to medium high and season with salt and pepper. Saute until mushrooms are browned and tender, about 10 minutes. Add thyme and stir to combine.
- Reduce heat to medium low, add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the white wine and cook until it has nearly evaporated, about 1 more minute. Stir in water and cream and bring to a simmer. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake 8-10 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Serve.
If you loved this recipe, give it a star review! Also, snap a picture of your Mushroom Gratin and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #truenorthkitchen and tagging me @true_north_kitchen.