A simple recipe that is perfect for a snowy day!
Growing up in rural New England, I was fortunate to be surrounded by forests. I was also lucky to have an uncle who was an avid forager for all things wild and wonderful in our woods.
Fresh food and antique glass
He lived just up the road, and I would accompany him and my Aunt Mary on many an expedition looking for wild food and antique bottles. Aunt Mary’s windowsills were filled with colorful glass bottles that sparkled in the sunlight. She had the eye; when out in the forest, she knew where an old house might have been, and probably where their “dump” was located as well. She almost always found a treasure.
Simple, but wonderful
One of my favorite memories was foraging for wild mushrooms with Uncle Leonard. We’d get back to the house and feast on a simple meal of toast with sautéed mushrooms. Nothing fancy at all. The mushrooms were sliced and fried in lard, with salt and lots of black pepper added in generous quantity. It’s still one of my favorite treats, only without the lard.
And yet, another toast usually rules
When our family celebrates a holiday, there’s always June Cleaver Toasts to start. If I don’t prepare it, for whatever reason, probably time, one of the grandchildren will assemble the ingredients and swipe a baguette in order to set the universe right.
Although we may always serve these little delights, there is never a “No thank you” to the mushroom toasts either. They can easily be made to accommodate any dietary preference from vegan, to gluten-free, to cheese lover, and everyone is happy.
First snow, snow forts, and mushroom toast
We had our first snow last week, and my granddaughter enlisted my help as her second in command to make a snow fort. Perfect kid snow, it ended up being quite a big fort. But chilled to the bone, I decided to make these comforting toasts for lunch. Hot chocolate helped too! The toasts were delicious. Hearty and flavorful, the fennel and sherry add just the right enhancement.
Find a mushroom you love, even if it isn’t wild!
With apologies to Uncle Leonard and his love of lard, here I used vegan butter and olive oil, dairy butter works well too, of course. Since mushroom foraging time is over, I used shiitake mushrooms I found at the health food store that were large and meaty. I happen to love the flavor of shiitake mushrooms, but I’m just as happy with common button mushrooms! You can use any favorite mushroom here, or a mix if you like. Likewise for the dried mushrooms. I used my own foraged dried Hen-of-the-woods (Maitake) mushrooms, but any dried mushroom will work, just check the package to look for the source; China has flooded the market with cheap mushrooms which puts our own growers at risk. I always have serious questions about the quality control as well.
I’ve used the scraps and the dried mushrooms to make a quick stock for the dish. It takes hardly any time, and makes use of the scraps before assigning them to the compost. You can use any stock, but the few moments putting the homemade stock together is well worth it in flavor. The scallions add a nice pop of freshness at the end, but you can use another herb of choice.
Of course, you can just simply sauté the mushrooms and put them on buttered toasts and it is still a mighty fine dish!
Sherried Mushrooms on Sourdough Toasts
- 10 oz. (285 g.) cleaned shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 small onion (6 oz., 175 g.), sliced
- 1 tbsp. butter, or vegan butter
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. fennel seed, lightly crushed
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tbsp., heaping, flour
- 2 oz. (56 ml) dry sherry
- ½ cup (4 oz., 113 ml.) mushroom stock*
- 1 scallion, sliced
- Parmesan, optional
Remove the stems from the mushrooms and pat them dry. Slice. Slice the onion as well. If you are making your stock, add these scraps along with 1 oz. of dried mushrooms and 3 cups of water and put it on to boil. Once the stock has cooled, make the mushroom mixture, and assemble the toasts.
Lightly toast eight long slices of the baguette and set aside.
Heat a heavy sauté pan over medium high and add the butter and olive oil. Add the mushroom in a single layer, mostly, brown on one side, turn, and add the onion, fennel, and garlic. Mix well, and add a bit of salt and pepper.
Cook, stirring now and then, until the onion has softened. Sprinkle with the flour and continue mixing for two minutes, until the flour has cooked through. There will probably be a glaze on the pan now, so add the sherry to scrape it all up, then stir in the stock. Let this simmer until thick, it only takes a few minutes, then taste for seasoning.
You can also use this as a gravy over potatoes, pasta, rice, or other grains, just increase the amount of stock.
Butter the toasts lightly, then mound with the mushroom mixture. Garnish with a bit of Parmesan or vegan Parmesan, and sprinkle with the scallions, or just a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten things up.
*To make mushroom stock, combine the trimmings of the mushroom stems, the scraps from the onion, 1 oz. (30 g) of dried mushrooms of choice, and 3 cups of water. Simmer for 15 minutes, then let set until cool. Strain.
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