David Tanis’s of the New York Times got me to thinking about mushrooms again with his splendid recipe for Mushrooms on Toast. He called it a “no-recipe recipe.” There’s a lot of those tucked away in our memories, dishes that we no longer need written instructions to cook. They’ve become instinctive. Or as his friend—no doubt an Englishman—told David about cooking mushrooms: “It’s just butter and a bloody hot pan.”
Hmm. . . maybe a bit more, but not much. The best part about this simple dish is that it works for any meal, any time. You can use whatever varieties are available at the store year round.
But first my mushroom flashback . . . .
Memories Are Made of These
The most memorable mushroom dish I ever ate was at Chateau d’Esclimont just outside Paris. I had stopped there for lunch and was sitting in the window watching a gentle rain fall on a nearby pond, that was as flat at your hand and featured one lone swan. The memory of that exquisite dish is as fresh in my mind today as it ever was.
Twenty-five years later, I returned with a few members of my family to Chateau d’Esclimont. (Not without some effort since I was trying to remember which turns to take on the back roads.) When we pulled up in front of the charming 16th century manor house, seemingly, nothing had changed; all was as I remembered it.
How exciting! I was so in hopes of enjoying that plate of mushrooms once again. When I told the server my story, he knew exactly what I was talking about. But he informed me that the chef was no longer with them and the item had since been removed from the menu.
The White Swan
And the white swan? Well, “quelle domage,” he had long since passed on as well, but had been replaced. Sensing my disappointment, the server said with a hopeful smile, that we could have lunch at the table in the window where I once sat, overlooking the pond.
Despite the absence of the mushroom dish . . . and the original swan . . .and the gentle rain, we had a splendid meal, though I don’t recall just what we had. All I can remember are those mushrooms from decades ago.
Our server offered a parting word of solace, “Madam,” he said, “I am sorry about the mushrooms, and the chef, and the swan. But it’s possible we might be having rain tomorrow, should you wish to return to enjoy the view from the window.”
Mushrooms on Toast
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, more as needed
- 1 lb. thinly sliced portobello or cremini mushrooms
- 1 tsp. chopped thyme
- 2 small garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and pepper
- Splash of sherry or Marsala (optional)
- ¼ cup crème fraîche
- 2 thick slices country bread, for toasting
- 2 tbs. chopped parsley
- Heat a wide skillet over high heat and add butter, swirling pan. When butter begins to sizzle, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes.
- Add the thyme and garlic, and stir to coat. Season well with salt and pepper and continue to sauté for a minute more, then add sherry, if using. Add crème fraîche and let the mixture simmer 2 minutes more.
- Meanwhile, toast bread slices until golden. Lightly butter them and place on individual warm plates.
- Spoon mushrooms and juices over the toasted bread and top with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.