Appetizer Spotlight FBC2017: The Ultimate Un-Recipe for Mushrooms on Toast by Food For Thought

With the appetizer contest closed, we’re busy behind the scenes evaluating the competition. Last, but certainly not least, we have one more entry to share before tomorrow’s BIG announcement!!Bloggers are sharing their favourite appetizers, this time with a Canadian twist, for a chance to win their way in to FBC2017! FBC members were invited to join the contest, earning them entry and accommodations at the conference, as well as a spotlight feature at the Mushrooms Canada table during the opening night reception. For those of you who are just here for delicious eats, watch the competition unfold, as we share each entry and help us decide!

We’re excited to have Alex from Food For Thought take part in our contest, sharing a classic recipe, just like grandma would serve! We can’t wait to dig in.The wonderful Jacques Pepin recently spoke about the inherent contradictions between codified recipes and the creation of a taste. He said “When writing a recipe, one records a moment in time which can never be duplicated exactly again. The paradox is that the recipe tells the reader, this must be done this way, when, in fact, to get the result you’re looking for, the recipe has to be modified each time.

When I read that, I recognized my mother’s cooking, constantly adjusting to what she had on hand. And this was especially true when she returned from an early morning mushroom hunt, her baskets filled with Cèpes and Chanterelles. Our extended family would gather and feast of the harvest, usually accompanied by shots of icy vodka. Sometimes there would be cream and chives incorporated in the dish, other times just the sautéed mushrooms with salt and pepper, usually served on toast. The mushrooms were always the hero of the dish.

That’s the reason I’ve created the ultimate un-recipe for mushrooms on toast. Follow the principles outlined, use what you have to hand and do what feels right and you’ll end up with the easiest, tastiest, most mushroomy dish imaginable. Ready to serve in 10-15 minutes.

The Ultimate Un-Recipe for Mushrooms on Toast, à la Canadienne

Ingredients

Essential:
Mushrooms
Bread
Salt and Pepper
Butter and/or EVOO
Optional:
Herbs or Spices
Shallot or Spring Onions, or regular onion
Balsamic or other vinegar
Sherry, Port, a splash of white or red wine.
Maple Syrup
Cream
Note: Use unsalted butter if possible, or if you use salted then use a light hand with the seasoning.

The vinegar was a home-made chive blossom vinegar. Fresh thyme was added to the dish and chopped parsley used as a garnish.

But wait, you say, there are no quantities! That’s the point. I bet your grandmother never told you how many grams of X or Y to use, just how long to cook something, or how hot a hot oven actually was. That was and remains alchemy: Use what you have to hand, and adjust accordingly.

Method

Step 1 – the Mushrooms
We know these come in all manner of shapes, sizes and varieties. Use whatever is available or floats your boat. This un-recipe will be delicious no matter what variety you choose. Rustic or refined, that’s entirely up to you: wipe them, wash them, halve, slice or quarter them, or trim the stems. If they’re big then, by all means, cut them into similar sized chunks. If you have shitakes, then remove the tough woody stem.

Personally I favour small to medium size dark cremini mushrooms as they are delicious and cost effective. I trim the foot, and ensure they are clean, but otherwise I usually leave them alone. I get enough to cover the cooking surface of my pan but not overcrowd it. The goal is to extract maximum flavour from the mushrooms. For the mushrooms to be the hero of the dish.

The next step is the crucial one, taught me by a chef I know. Get a good sauté pan on the stove (or a campfire for that matter) and put it on medium to medium high heat. Don’t have a great pan? That’s ok, use what you have to hand. Add the mushrooms. That’s it. Let them sit and begin to caramelize. Shake the pan to move the mushrooms around.

They will not do much at first and depending on your stove you might want to turn the heat up or down a tad. Eventually the mushrooms will take on colour (and flavour), visibly shrink and there will be a notable sizzle from the pan as they give up moisture. That might take 5 minutes or so. The smell will be woodsy and divine. You can hit pause at this stage and finish the dish later.

If you are carrying on add a knob or two of butter, and perhaps a glug of EVOO. You can get fancy and slice the butter into tiny cubes, or just use oil. The butter will foam and as you shake the pan, or stir the contents with a spatula, the mushrooms should significantly shrink in size. Add a sprinkle of salt and a grind of pepper, and you don’t actually need to do anything more to have a lovely side dish. You can simply continue to cook the mushrooms till they are done to your taste, and plonk them on buttered toast. Delicious.

But hey, we are going for ultimate here so let’s go the extra mile.

Step 2 – Making it even more delicious. And Canadian, eh.
So the mushrooms are lusciously coated in some butter and/or oil and have been seasoned lightly. This is the moment you can decide to add thinly sliced shallots, tiny rounds of spring onion or finely minced garlic. Or any combination thereof. Turn down the heat to medium low and cook for a few minutes more until the onions are soft or translucent.

It’s also when you can add some herbs. What to add is up to you. I love fresh thyme, making sure I have picked the leaves so as not to include the woody stems. But you can use sage (mmm, a marriage made in heaven) or parsley. Chop the herbs as needed so no one is going to get a large chunk of anything ruining their palate. Add a goodly dose of heavy cream, or some sherry, or a bit of balsamic, or even, and how Canadian, a touch of maple syrup.

In the dish depicted in the photos I used a small splash of oniony, chive blossom vinegar balancing the tart taste with a small dose of dark maple syrup. The mushrooms will look glossy, enrobed in their dark sauce. Taste as you go and adjust till YOU love it. You can once again set the mushrooms aside at this stage, warming them through just before serving.

Toast and butter baguette rounds and add a spoonful of the mushroom mixture on top. Or get a thick slab of great sourdough or caraway rye, toast it and omit the butter, allowing the delicious mushroom juices to flavour your app. Get fancy, garnish with some fresh herbs. Or don’t. Eat. Enjoy. The Vodka’s optional too.~~~~~FBC Members were encouraged to join the competition with their own recipe! The contest is now closed.

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