Beet, Wild Mushroom and Potato Casserole: A Delicious Fall Dish

I think most families have few recipes that are so tried-and-true, so delicious and hearty and satisfying, that they become worked into the meal rotation with great regularity. This can almost get to the point where some dishes are so liked and so familiar that they almost become default meals. 
(“What do you want for dinner?” “I dunno, what do want?” “I dunno.” “How ’bout we have __(fill in the blank)__?” “Good idea. Let’s have that.”)
In our home, this dish is the answer to the question of what to have for dinner more often than almost any other, especially this time of year. It is literally a dish you cannot mess up. Every time I make it, I make it a little bit differently than I did the time before, and it is always delicious.
With that said, I do have a few suggestions. When you cut the beets and onions, leave them in nice, big chunks: this dish is more satisfying when it’s full of big, flavorful beety hunks of mmmmmmmmm. 
Feel free to experiment with what herbs you use, but don’t leave out the dill, horseradish, or caraway seeds. They really bring all the flavors together.
Finally, don’t rush the onions. Never be in a rush when you are sauteeing onions: allow them to cook until they are soft and see-through, and until their flavor is a little sweet, lowering the heat if you have to to prevent them from burning. When something (or someone) is as pungent as a freshly-chopped onion, it can take a little bit of time to get it (or him, her or hir) to mellow out. The end result of your dish will be much improved by being willing to allow a little extra time to this step.

Beet, Wild Mushroom and Potato Casserole 

  • 2 T vegetable oil   
  • 1 large onion, chopped  
  • 1 t caraway seeds  
  • 2 T all-purpose flour  
  • 1/3 cup water  
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine  (OR: omit water and wine, substitute vegetable stock)  
  • 1 1/2 pounds cooked beets, peeled and cut into large bite-sized pieces  
  • 5 T light cream  
  • 2 T creamed horseradish (or to taste: I sometimes prefer a little more)  
  • 1 t hot mustard  
  • 1 T wine vinegar  
  • 2 T butter  
  • 1 shallot, chopped  
  • 8 oz. assorted wild mushrooms (or, to simplify, baby ‘bellas work well: though it’s best if there are some oyster mushrooms in it!)  
  • 3 T fresh parsely, chopped  
  • 2 t each: fresh basil, marjoram, dill and oregano, chopped  
  • Salt and pepper, to taste     

For the potato border: 

  • 2 lbs. potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold or red potatoes, chopped into largish bite-sized chunks (leave peels on)  
  • 1/2 c milk  
  • 1/4  c butter  
  • 1 T fresh dill, chopped  salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste     

OVEN TEMP: 375 degrees F

1. Lightly oil a 9 inch round baking dish, or similarly-sized casserole dish. Heat the oil in a large saucepan: add the onion and cook until soft. Add caraway seeds and saute a few more minutes, until fragrant. Stir in the flour, remove from heat, and gradually add the water and wine (or stock), stirring until well-blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Return to the heat: stir and simmer to thicken, then add the beets, cream, creamed horseradish, mustard and vinegar. Stir to mix.

3. Bring the potatoes to a boil in salted water and cook for 20 minutes. Drain well and mash wth the milk and butter. Add the dill and season with salt and pepper.

4. Spoon the potatoes into the prepared dish and make a well in the center. Spoon the beet mixture into the well and set aside.

5.Melt the 2 T butter in a large nonstick frying pan and cook the shallot until soft, without browning. Add the mushrooms and cook over medium heat until their juices begin to run. Increase the heat and boil off the moisture. When quite dry, season with the herbs and salt and pepper to taste.

6. Spread the mushrooms over the beet mixture, cover the dish with a lid or a piece of aluminum foil, and bake for about 30 minutes. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley if you desire.

This entire dish can be prepared in advance and baked when needed. Allow more baking time (approx. 15-20 minutes more) when baking from room temperature.

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