Mushrooms on toast is a classic British dish, usually served with tea after work or as a light supper. It is perfectly delightful in its simplicity, just sautéed mushrooms with maybe a little onion and parsley, dumped over toast and dug into after a hard day's work. I did play with it a little in this version, which gussies things up with a splash of wine, some crème fraîche and fresh thyme. Please don't yell at me — it's really quite good and not that fancy!
My British friend Siobhan gets her mushrooms from the woods near her house but I just purchase button mushrooms from the grocery store since I live in Oakland, CA and don't know a thing about foraging mushrooms. I suppose you could elevate this even further by using fancy mushrooms like porcini or chanterelles but one of the beauties of this dish is that it really makes good use of the everyday, often-overlooked button mushroom. So try it this way at least once before moving on to the posh stuff.
As I mentioned, typically mushrooms on toast is just sautéed mushrooms with maybe a few slices of onions thrown in. The mushrooms are often cooked slowly so they release their juices. Some parsley is thrown in towards the end and the whole thing is spooned over toast, which absorbs the delicious mushroom juices.
My version takes a different approach by cooking the mushrooms quickly over high heat so they take on some color without releasing their juices. It is very helpful to have a large, shallow frying pan for this method, so the mushrooms don't pile up on top of each other and steam. It all happens rather quickly, so have your ingredients prepped and at hand, like you would for a stir-fry.
I also break with tradition by serving mushrooms on toast for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It's especially good with a few slices of tomato on the side and a glass of rich red wine for a light supper.
Mushrooms on Toast
Serves one hungry person or two for tea
8 ounces button mushrooms
1 small shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 small clove of garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Splash of white wine (optional)
2 tablespoons crème fraîche, to serve
2 pieces of toast made from a hearty bread, to serve
Wash the mushrooms quickly in water, drain and pat very dry with a tea towel. Leave the small mushrooms whole and slice larger mushrooms into thick chunks and slices.
Prep the shallot, garlic and thyme. Have the wine and crème fraîche handy. Toast the bread.
Heat the oil in a large shallow frying pan on high heat until it shimmers. Add all the mushrooms and give the pan a quick shake to distribute the mushrooms 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.
Shake the pan again or toss mushrooms to evenly color. Sprinkle on a pinch of salt and a few turn of the pepper mill. At this point, add the shallot, stir briefly and cook for 30 seconds. Add the optional wine, the garlic and half the thyme and remove from the heat. The pan should be hot enough to keep cooking everything (the wine will probably evaporate on contact.)
Stir in the crème fraîche and spoon over the toast, garnishing with the remaining thyme. Serve with a few slices of fresh tomatoes, if possible, for color and acidity. Tuck in!
Related: Cooking Basics: How to Sauté Mushrooms (Emma's take on the method that releases the juices.)
(Images: Dana Velden)