Let’s consider mushrooms together for a moment, shall we? How do you feel about them? Love? Hate? Indifference? And what about that whole texture thing? It seems like most of the mushroom haters I know cite the texture as the biggest turn-off. It’s no secret that I’m firmly in the pro-mushroom camp. And I’m not out to change anyone’s mind. Of course, we may not be able to order a pizza together, but we can still be friends. Love what you love and hate what you hate—that’s just fine with me.
But I am curious enough to close my eyes every now and then while savoring a mouthful of mushrooms and try to imagine not liking the experience. I can’t, frankly. I taste the rich umami buttery flavor and feel the dense, springy smoothness on my tongue and I sigh with satisfaction. But it’s an interesting exercise in me and not-me.
I have a coworker who forages for mushrooms. Yesterday he was excited about a cardboard box full of large white mushrooms that he had just picked. They resembled the basic white mushrooms you might pick up at the grocery store, but bigger and denser. Some were the size of my hand.
“Look at these,” he said. “They are called Agaricus Agustus, or The Prince of Mushrooms.” He held one out for me to sniff. “Can you smell pine and almonds?” Another coworker took a sniff and asked him, “Where did you find these?” He got the cagey half-smile of a veteran mushroom forager on his face. “Oh, in the ground…” he replied. I have some strong suspicions about where he finds some of his mushrooms, but it’s his secret to keep. I’m not a mushroom forager myself.
He was generous enough to give me a few to take home. We talked flavor and preparation for a few minutes, and I knew there was only one way to go. The best preparation for truly flavorful mushrooms is the simplest: sautéed and served on sourdough toast.
There is no better solo lunch than this. And if it happens to be a sunny day, and you can take your simple meal out onto the patio—maybe with a glass of ice-cold white wine—and listen to the birds singing in the hedges while you slowly savor each hot, crispy, chewy, savory bite, all the better.
Sautéed Mushrooms on Toast
- 2 medium-sized slices of sourdough bread
- 2 cups coarsely chopped mushrooms of any variety–or a combination will work fine
- drizzle of olive oil (about 1 tsp)
- ½ tsp butter
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Choose a heavy-bottomed skillet large enough to avoid crowding mushrooms. Heat skillet over medium heat. Place mushrooms in skillet and dry-sauté for a few minutes, stirring gently. When mushrooms begin to brown slightly, put bread in toaster. Drizzle mushrooms with a very small amount of olive oil, add butter, and salt lightly. Continue to sauté, stirring frequently, until mushrooms soften and release their liquid (This should be about the time the toast pops up). Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Do not skimp on the salt. Place the two pieces of toast on a plate and heap one half of the mushrooms on each. Eat immediately.