About ten years ago, “fancy toast” became fairly trendy in American restaurants. But the Brits have been doing it for a lot longer than we have.
Baked beans on toast (originally a marketing ploy by Heinz), has been a favorite for almost 100 years. Even with the common toppings, however, (poached egg, grated cheese, hot sauce, bacon, curry powder, Marmite, chorizo, Worcestershire sauce), it really didn’t appeal to me. So I picked a second toasty favorite of our friends across the pond - creamy mushrooms on toast.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, more as needed
1 pound any type of mushrooms
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
2 small garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
Splash of sherry, Marsala, or sipping rum (optional)
¼ cup crème fraîche
2 thick slices country bread, for toasting
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or basil
As I’ve mentioned before, to get the most flavor out of the mushrooms, you have to reduce the moisture in them first.
Drying them completely before cooking will minimize the amount of moisture they give up when they’re heated. Mushrooms are already little sponges, in a way, so making sure they’re completely dry will keep them from swimming in their own juice and getting rubbery and spongy instead of crisp, buttery, and savory.
Avoid salting the mushrooms before they’re completely cooked, since that will also draw moisture out of the mushrooms and into the pan, again steaming them. You can leave them on the counter to dry for the day or you can do as I did and put them in the oven (sliced or whole) at 150 for one hour. Then turn them over and dry for another hour. Of course you can skip this step but the mushrooms won’t be as good and the sauce you make will be thinned down.
Slice the mushrooms. Heat a wide skillet over high heat and add butter, swirling pan. When butter begins to sizzle, add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add thyme and garlic, and stir to coat.
Season well with salt and pepper and continue to sauté for a minute more, then add alcohol, if using. I used Diplomatico sipping rum. If you’re avoiding alcohol altogether, a nice aged soy would actually be a good substitute.
Add crème fraîche and let mixture simmer 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast bread slices until golden. Don’t use an airy bread like challah or brioche - it’s too flimsy to stand up to the mushrooms.
Lightly butter the sliced bread and place on individual warm plates.
Spoon mushrooms and juices over toasted bread. Top with chopped parsley or basil.
This is great for any meal, really. But if you’re having it for dinner, perhaps a nice pint of Guinness to go with?