“My waiter…..returns with a soft caress and announces mushrooms on toast in a voice that triggers a surge of a hormone I didn’t know I had. They taste like a melange of Asian and wild mushrooms with a predominance of fragrant porcini, almost ‘poached’ in butter, herbed with something like wild thyme and kissed with garlic.”
Tim Hayward, The Financial Times describing a visit to Gjelina restaurant in California
Autumn is the best time of the year for walking in the Alps – it’s not too hot and the trees are turning a glorious gold. But after a few hours of uphill work (some of which is spent seated, trying to produce a decent sketch) one needs to return to something sustaining – and ideally seasonal. Mushrooms on Toast is the thing.
And, the technique described in Tim Hayward’s quote above, whereby the mushrooms are effectively ‘poached’ in the rich nutty butter is the best approach, but getting the butter frothingly hot in the beginning is an important secret to success with this dish.
The supporting act supplied by Urfa pepper flakes – or alternatively Indonesian long pepper – helps too. Both have a wonderful earthy, liquorishy, chocolatey flavour which goes well with the mushrooms.
The pomegranate molasses also brings out the flavour of the funghi.
Of course, this is a dish of the utmost simplicity – perfect for a quick lunch with a glass of water….however, you could just as well serve it up for a seductive dinner, in which case you could offer an unexpected amontillado sherry (thereby revealing yourself to be an original and interesting sort of a person)….or you could really push the boat out with a heavy caramelly Pol Roger champagne – Sir Winston Churchill cuvée (thereby revealing yourself to probably be a banker or a criminal).
Recipe for Momentous Mountain Mushrooms on Toast
• 3 cloves of garlic crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt
• 250g/9 oz miniature mushrooms – velvet pioppini or enoki
• 250g/9 oz chestnut, oyster or, ideally, porcini mushrooms
• Pinch of Urfa pepper flakes, or some freshly ground Indonesian long pepper… or ordinary pepper
• 100g/3 oz or so of butter
• A few sprigs of thyme
• 2 tbsps mascarpone (optional)
• 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (optional)
• Some snipped parsley (even this is optional, but it does give a fresh taste to the whole thing, which is quite earthy)
• 4 slices ciabatta, or sourdough bread
1. Prepare the mushrooms first (use the clean stems). Put the bread in the toaster.
2. Get a couple of knobs of butter starting to froth in a large frying pan. You don’t want the butter to burn, but the secret is to get the mushrooms good and hot – they’ll brown, but they won’t immediately release their juices – you want them fried (almost ‘poached’ as Tim Hayward says in the quote above) in the butter – you don’t want them simmering in their own juices until the cooking is nearly finished.
3. Peel and crush the garlic with the salt if you haven’t already. Add to the pan, ‘kissing’ the mushrooms deliciously with the garlic in the process.
4. Season the mushrooms, and add the thyme leaves off the sprigs you have.
5. Add the mascarpone and pomegranate molasses if you are using.
6. Keep everything warm while you toast and butter the bread. Serve, with a few snips of parsley to garnish.