Did you know that there are more than 14,000 identified species of mushrooms? While I've yet to sample the entire gamut, I'm a fan of every single one I've tried so far, from maitake, hedgehog and enoki to chanterelle and even plain ol' white button.
Back in high school, during my first bout as a vegetarian, a mushroom quesadilla from a nearby Mexican restaurant was truly my bread and butter. In the years since, 'shrooms have been a mainstay of my diet. I especially love them in soups, sandwiches, pastas and omelets, as well as on top of pizzas or stuffed in every which way.
Mushrooms possess such a simple, inherent elegance, especially when bolstered with the reliable flavor additions of butter, fresh herbs and wine. Once you get the hang of preparing and cooking them well, a whole world of mushroom-centric dishes will open up right before your eyes. The famous, yet somewhat polarizing fungi's meaty flavor (especially when it comes to the portobello, porcini or cremini) also makes it a stellar vegetarian or vegan go-to.
In case you missed it, fungus is having a moment thanks to the popular HBO series "The Last of Us," which features a post-apocalyptic landscape devastated by a zombie-like fungal outbreak. If a watch party is in your plans, a mushroom-focused appetizer would no doubt add an extra layer of fun to the night.
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If you haven't hopped aboard that train yet, there will be several opportunities to feed a crowd later this month, including the Super Bowl and Valentine's Day. However, these roasted garlic and Gruyère mushroom toasts are so good that you may wind up finishing them off before your pals even show up.
- 1 head garlic
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 3 to 4 lemons, juiced and zested, divided
- 1 1/3 cups rich, creamy spread (See Cook's Notes)
- 2 tablespoons white miso
- 4 ounces Gruyère, finely shredded, divided
- 1 bunch chives, minced, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
- 1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms, cleaned with a damp paper towel, stems removed and quartered or diced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (or stock or broth)
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 loaf country bread, sourdough or other crusty bread option, sliced (See Cook's Notes)
- 4 eggs, poached or fried, optional
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- On a sheet of foil, place the head of garlic, plus a drizzle of olive oil and some salt. Wrap up and place in the oven for about 1 hour. Let cool fully. Keep the oven on (or turn on the broiler).
- Squeeze the roasted garlic into a large bowl. (It should easily come right out.) Be sure to pick out any errant garlic peels and discard them.
- To the bowl with the roasted garlic, add half the lemon juice and zest, creamy spread of choice, miso, 3/4 of the Gruyère and a handful of minced chives. Season well with salt and pepper. Mix very well.
- In a very large, heavy skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, no more than 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms to the pan. Don't over-crowd; you may have to cook in batches. Don't season. Cook for at least 5 to 7 minutes, until deeply browned and all liquid has evaporated.
- Add the white wine, reduce completely, then repeat with the heavy cream. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mushrooms are crisp and caramelized. Add the remaining lemon zest and juice, plus another handful of the minced chives. Season well with salt.
- Brush the sliced bread with the olive oil. Transfer to the oven and toast or broil until just slightly browned. (Keep an eye out; it may burn quickly.)
- Remove the toasts from the oven and let them cool slightly.
- With an offset spatula, spread the roasted garlic-creamy base onto the toasts. Using a slotted spoon, follow with a spoonful of the mushrooms. Repeat until all ingredients have been used.
- Finish with any remaining chives and Gruyère and serve immediately. Conversely, finish with an egg with a runny-yolk and some flaky salt.
- For the mushrooms, reach for button, cremini, oyster, shiitake and so on and so forth.
- For the spread, think ricotta (blended in a food processor or blender until smooth), labneh, fromage blanc, crème fraîche, fall fat Greek or plain yogurt or cream cheese.
- You can try this recipe with practically any bread. While 1-inch slices are great, feel free to slice to whatever width you prefer.
- I generally like quartering the mushrooms for this type of application, as you don't want unmanageably large pieces on a slice of toast. If you'd rather go in the other direction and enter a duxelle-like realm of super finely chopped mushrooms (almost like a mushroom pâté, if you will), feel free. It would change the texture and consistency, but it would also make the dish feel a little bit more elegant.
- While these toasts will earn an A+ on their own, feel free to pair them with a rich, creamy soup for an extra special meal.
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