I love mushrooms, but I hate cleaning them. Which means, if I am being honest, I usually avoid making wild (read: dirty) mushrooms at home. Instead, I take every opportunity to order them on the rare occasion I’m eating out. Recently, Nick and I had a much needed night out sans baby. We went to a local French restaurant that I previously thought only existed in France itself. Or maybe in a Nancy Meyers movie. It has a charming and rustic vibe, live French jazz to which people were actually dancing (is this for real?), and seasonal, farm-fresh food that was unfussy and delicious.
A special that night was a chanterelle mushroom toast with a brown butter thyme sauce. Obviously we ordered it, but made the mistake of only ordering one. I jealously eyed each bite Nick took. Being the practical, problem-solving guy that he is, he ordered another. Love this guy!
The toast was so simple, yet packed a ton of flavor. The mushrooms were cooked just right so that they still retained some toothiness and were not at all spongy. The simple sauce of brown butter, garlic and thyme complemented the mushroom’s delicate earthy flavor and let it shine. Piled on top of toasted sourdough bread with a generous sprinkling of sea salt, this is the dish for which the chanterelles were destined.
I was craving the toast even before we left the restaurant, and knew I had to recreate it at home asap. I bought some beautiful chanterelles. But then they sat in my refrigerator for a day staring me down. Did I mention I hate cleaning mushrooms? I always thought I was required to delicately rub the dirt from each individual mushroom with a lightly damp cloth – a painstaking process for which I have no patience.
I turned to Google – how bad is the dirt on mushrooms for you, really? And I discovered that the consensus has changed on the subject of mushroom cleaning. Apparently, the clever people at Cook’s illustrated did some testing and found that when quickly and lightly rinsed the mushrooms did not retain that much extra moisture, diminishing the threat of soggy mushrooms. So I very quickly and very lightly rinsed them, shook them in a mesh strainer, blotted them dry with a cloth, rubbed off a few larger pieces of stray dirt and got to cooking. I ignored the specks of dirt that remained. Now that I have a toddler, I have become much less worried about a little dirt.
To speed up the cooking process, I cooked the mushrooms in ghee, rather than making my own brown butter. I also spread the toast with goat cheese to give it a little extra tang. If you want to make this dish vegan, you could use olive oil and cashew cheese. I served the toast alongside a quick celery root and cauliflower blender soup. It made for an easy and special weeknight dinner. We recreated our date night at home, improved by the fact that we each had two full toasts to ourselves.