Stuffed Mushrooms with Baguette, Boursin, and Mint
Mushroom Velouté with Truffle Oil
Champignon and Fontina Brioche Mushroom
Fricassee *bonus basic*
This weekend, Mr. English finds himself otherwise engaged, away on another one of those bizarre British pastimes, the “walking trip,” in Scotland. And truth be told, I’m glad of it. For, if he weren’t away on his trip, I couldn’t take mine: a sunny sojourn into the magnificent world of ’shrooms.
You see, Mr. English positively loathes mushrooms, the humble, unsung hero of French cuisine, adored the world over by seemingly everyone but him. Of course, I don’t mean the psychedelic variety. I’m far more partial to the shitake, the hen of the woods, the oyster, the chestnut, the porcini, the cremini. I’m enchanted by Chanterelles, learn my morals from Morels, and bellow for Portobellos. Their heady fragrances and flavors take me to heights I doubt the ’70s stoner ever experienced in the back of the VW bus, smoky as a kitchen though it was. But in love, one must endeavor to understand the world from the other’s point of view, and when it comes to mushrooms, I must admit, that I do understand. I wasn’t always such an addict.
When I was young (and vegetarian), the sole mushroom in my life was the one that popped out of a magic box on my Nintendo screen. When Mario and “Linguine” (once a foodie, always a foodie) grabbed hold of one of these fungal finds, they rapidly doubled in size, lived twice as long, and vanquished slimy toads, fire-breathing flowers, and flying King Koopas all in one go. My natural reaction should have been to gobble them up, for my mother made them often enough. I would have been the tallest girl in my grade, finished my arithmetic in five minutes flat, and conquered the inimical Monsieur Chameron, the French teacher who, to my young mind, conducted his own Reign of Terror on the Upper East Side with one disapproving swivel of his Gallic nose through the air, and a glare that shouted silently, “tu es idiot!”
In fact, the brilliant mastermind behind Mario Bros. wasn’t so far from the truth. One Portobello mushroom has more potassium than a banana, and mushrooms are one of the only, if not the only, vegetarian source of B vitamins. But I won’t touch anything just because it’s healthy. Ew. What I love about mushrooms, now that I’ve evolved enough to appreciate the little ones, is their inability to be anything but the salt of the earth. They come covered in earth, and they taste like earth: woodsy, oaky, and fresh, like soil soaked in rain. Evocative of the enchanted French past, of a brocade-clad lady leading a pig through the forest, hunting for buried truffle treasure, and collecting these little rhinestones all the way home to the stone house with its little lambs and smoke that puffs like lambs’ wool from the chimney. Like the lady with her pig, mushrooms, and their truffle cousins, are the irony of the French gastronomic world: fungus buried in the soil and snorted out by snouts, but consistently gussied up for presentation at the plate, and prized along with saffron and gold and brocade and all the other lovely things that cost decades of dollars to the ounce.
Lucky for you, mushrooms are light. This week, I offer three of my favorite mushroom recettes. Stuffed Mushrooms are a “chapeau” to kitschy appetizers, but mine are stuffed with smokey gruyere and creamy Boursin and baguette crumbs, made fresh with mint and parsley. Mushroom Velouté is la reine of mushroom soups, like grey velvet emblazoned with studs of truffle oil. And Champignon Fontina Brioche is the perfect sandwich to eat with a friend, over an afternoon table perked up by a carafe of white wine. Also, you will learn how to make the standard mushroom fricassee, a basic bonus needed for the Brioche recipe, but that can also be used as an embellishment for chicken or fish.
So be a good, and eat your mushrooms. If you do, it’s likely that nothing will stand in your way, not even Japanese animated king dragons or garrulous Gauls. You may even, like Mario and Linguine, get an extra life. So pack those supermarket shopping bags full, and take a trip. Bon app!
250 grams of chestnut mushrooms (or cremini/“baby bella” in America), stems removed
½ cup of baguette crumbs
½ cup of smoked cheese (smoked version of gruyere, or even cheddar), grated
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of Boursin
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- To make baguette crumbs, simply tear off a hunk of baguette and whirl it around in the food processor. Just measure what you need. I make a bagful and store them in the freezer.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a small pan. Add the shallot and garlic, and salt and pepper. Sauté gently for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the olive oil, shallot, and garlic mixture to the bread crumbs. Also add all the other ingredients besides the mushrooms.
- Drizzle a foil lined baking sheet with olive oil—just enough to prevent the mushrooms from sticking. Arrange the mushrooms on the sheet, cavity up. Divide the crumb and cheese filling between the mushrooms so that they are brimming. Lightly drizzle the tops with more olive oil.
- Bake the mushrooms caps for 20 minutes, until the top is crusted and the center is creamy. Eat hot.
4 medium-to-thick slices of brioche, lightly toasted
8 thin slices of fontina cheese
2 tablespoons of mushroom fricassee (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons of prepared tapenade
- To make the champignon tapenade, spoon the mushroom fricassee and the tapenade into a food processor and blend until the two come together as a paste. My go-to recipe for mushroom fricassee follows…It makes far more than you will need for this sandwich, but this is what I typically do with the leftovers. If making in the reverse order, use your leftovers from this sandwich to dress up simply chicken breasts or a filet of white fish. Instant fancy French!
- To assemble the sandwiches, lightly toast the bread.
- While it is still warm, lay two thin slices of fontina on each slice of bread, so the residual heat will soften but not melt the cheese.
- Place a scoop of the tapenade in the center of the bread, and cut the bread in half. I find that this sandwich goes very well with wine: in the afternoon or as a very late-night snack.
1 ½ pounds of chopped, assorted wild mushrooms, like hen of the woods, cremini, shitake, and button
3 tablespoons of butter
1 large shallot, minced
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of flour
¾ cup of low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
- In a large sauté pan, add 3 tablespoons of butter and melt over medium heat.
- Add the mushrooms, and nothing else at all, and allow to brown and cook.
- When they are quite browned, add the shallot and thyme and season with salt and pepper. When the shallots are soft, move the mixture to one side of the pan.
- On the other side, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and add the flour. Mix together to form a little roux on one side of the pan. Cook it for about 1 minute and stir in the stock.
- Mix the two sides of the pan together and allow to thicken for a few seconds.
- 250 grams of chestnut mushrooms (or cremini/“baby bella” in America), quartered
- 20 grams of dried mixed wild mushrooms
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 4 stems of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups of water
- ½ cup of cream
- Sliced baguette (optional)
- Truffle oil (optional, but highly recommended!)
- Salt and pepper
- If making baguette toasts, slice the baguette straight across, creating ½ inch slices. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, or even truffle oil, and a touch of salt and bake at 400 degrees until just golden and crisp. Serve along with the soup.
- Boil a quart of water. Add the dried mushrooms, and cover off the heat.
- Melt the butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and salt and pepper. Sweat for 2-3 minutes so that the shallots are translucent and soft and fragrant, but never golden.
- Save the mushroom stock, but remove the rehydrated dried mushrooms from the stock you just made with the hot water. Chop the mushrooms, and add along with the chestnut mushrooms, the thyme and bay leaf to the sautéing mixture. Sauté for 5 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to get some color and to soften.
- Add the quart of your mushrooms stock, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.
- Decant the soup into the blender. When pureeing hot liquids, be sure to remove the little cap button from the lid of the blender, and cover with a kitchen towel, to ensure that the steam can escape from the blender, but the mess is contained by the towel. Puree until smooth.
- Return the soup to the pan, and stir in the cream to heat through. Serve in mugs or bowls with a baguette toast floating in the center, and a luxurious drizzle of truffle oil over the top.