My husband’s people — that would be The Russians, if you’ve been following along at home — really like their caviar. It’s rare that a signature spread of zakuski doesn’t include at least one form of gem-colored eggs by the thousands, usually served with sour cream and small crepes. Me, I’m a troglodyte; I’m unable to appreciate such fine things in life, and generally breeze right past the caviar to spear a potato with my fork.
But it doesn’t mean I don’t like a little fancy something-something now and then; I just want it to suggest caviar but not actually being it (or, ahem, costing it). So when Melissa Clark called this mushroom preparation giving them “the caviar treatment” in an article eons ago, I was both excited, because I do love me some mushrooms, and dubious — dubious enough that it took me over two years to make it. And that, my friends, was a terrible waste of time.
You have got to love a relatively simple preparation — shallots sauteed in butter, a splash of wine, a glug of cream and butter-chives-butter-bread — of pretty simple foods — onions and mushrooms — that ends up this obscenely prosh. It’s not caviar, but it may as well be to people like me. And it’s the perfect thing to put out at a party this time of year, you know, if you’re going to a lot of parties, or maybe even set out at home for whichever folks have stopped by to coo over the resident baby fish mouth this time.
We really like our mushrooms: Cabbage and Mushroom Galette, Wild Mushroom and Stilton Galette, Leek and Mushroom Quiche, Mushrooms Stuffed with Feta and Bacon, Mushroom Bourguignon, Mushroom and Barley Pie, Sundried Tomato Stuffed Mushrooms, Alex’s Chicken and Mushroom Marsala, Wild Mushroom Pirogis and Mushroom Strudel
Creamed Mushrooms on Chive Butter Toast
Adapted from Melissa Clark, New York Times, 5/16/07
Clark originally crafted this recipe for morels, but the fact that they’re out of season now was really a boon as I realized, not even for the first time, that when you cook mushrooms well, even simple brown ones will taste like luxury. I used a mix of shiitakes and creminis, but you could easily just use creminis. They’ll still taste like they should be served from an ornate glass bowl with a delicate silver spoon.
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, or a mix of wild mushrooms such as morels, shiitakes, oysters or chanterellas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, more for toast
1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons dry white wine or white vermouth
1/4 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Slices brioche or good white bread, crusts cut off if desired
1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
Coarse sea salt such as fleur de sel or Maldon, for garnish
Clean excess dirt from mushrooms. Slice mushrooms in half lengthwise and brush away any grit; chop into 1/4-inch pieces.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté until very limp, about three minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, for about five minutes. Add wine, reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for about five minutes more. (There are a lot of “abouts” on the cooking times because I found that mine took less time at each step; however, I also may have chopped my mushrooms and shallots smaller than the recommended size.)
Uncover pot and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about two minutes. Stir in cream; simmer until slightly thickened, two minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Toast bread and spread with butter. (Clark recommended four slices of brioche, to make eight toasts, but I had enough mushrooms for almost triple that.) Cut each slice in half diagonally and sprinkle lightly with chives. Top each toast triangle with some mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with additional chives, garnish with sea salt, and serve.
Other uses for these mushrooms: I’d imagine they’d make a wonderful simple pasta sauce or, of course, something delicious to prop a poached egg upon, toast and all.
[Update: Thanks to the six (!) people who have noted that the theory that mushrooms absorb too much water to be washed has been rejected over time. They do absorb water, but not enough that they should throw off a dish. Wash away!]