Monday, April 29, 2013


It is both tantalizing and frustrating to be hungry for something extremely specific. I’m not sure why this particular craving popped up now (it may have something to do with starting a new job and needing comfort food), but about four years ago I had mushrooms on toast for the first time, at the restaurant on the second floor of the co-op in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and I have thought of that meal intermittently ever since. I can’t even remember the precise details of the original dish, except that it was both new to me and delicious, yet somehow it evolved into a very particular desire to make my own mushrooms on toast, with cheese and a poached egg. Although it sounds simple enough to go out and do on one’s own, I first searched to see what recipes were available online, because I am a wimp like to follow directions.. Rather surprisingly, I combed through pages and pages of results without finding exactly what I was looking for. (Granted, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for, but I figured I’d know it when I saw it.) Apparently, I was just going to have to improvise and hope it fed my craving.

I started with this mushrooms on toast recipe from The Kitchn, doubling the quantity because I wanted it to be a main dish and leaving out the crème fraiche because I was planning on adding cheese. I wanted my toast to be sturdy enough to hold the toppings, so I toasted it lightly in the toaster first, even though I would also be running it under the broiler at the end to melt the cheese. I couldn’t decide whether the cheese should go under or over the mushrooms, so A suggested I do both, which turned out to be a wise decision. The little layer of cheese under the mushrooms helped them adhere to the toast, and the layer on top, of course, became all browned and crisp under the broiler. I used Asiago because it has an assertive flavor that goes well with mushrooms, but mostly because I had some in the fridge that I wanted to use up. I could see Gruyere, Pecorino Romano, Parmesan, or even a sharp cheddar working too. At the end, I plopped poached eggs on top, tossed an arugula salad on the side, and hoped for the best.

Did it taste anything like that inspirational brunch dish from LaCrosse? I couldn’t tell. No Proustian memories came rushing back when I took my first bite. Was it delicious? Absolutely. And did it satisfy my naggingly specific hunger? Yes! I wouldn’t change a thing next time. It made a surprisingly hearty meal (my slices of bread were on the large side) that had to be tackled with a knife and fork, yet it had a certain casual, homey, I-just-threw-this-together elegance to it. We both enjoyed it, but deep down I’m especially pleased that I managed to give myself exactly what I wanted.

1 pound cremini mushrooms, washed and thickly sliced
1 shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 large clove of garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
A splash of white wine
Shredded Asiago or Gruyere cheese (sharp cheddar, Parmesan, or Pecorino Romano would also work)
4 slices of rustic bread, lightly toasted
4 eggs
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add all the mushrooms and give the pan a quick shake to distribute them in an even layer. Let them sit without stirring to take on some color, about 1 minute or so. Watch carefully and lower heat if they begin to burn, but keep it as high as possible.
  2. Stir the mushrooms and cook for another minute or so until evenly colored. Sprinkle on a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Add the shallot, stir briefly, and cook for 30 seconds. Add the wine, the garlic, and the thyme and remove from the heat. The pan should be hot enough to keep cooking everything (the wine will probably evaporate on contact).
  3. Heat water for poaching eggs.
  4. Preheat the broiler and place the pieces of toast on a baking sheet. Top each one with a light sprinkling of cheese, one-fourth of the mushrooms, and more cheese to taste. Broil just until cheese is melted and top is lightly browned.
  5. Meanwhile, poach eggs. Serve the eggs atop the mushroom-cheese toasts.

Serves: 2
Time: 25 minutes
Leftover potential: No.

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