Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wild Mushrooms On Toast (Jane Grigson - The Mushroom Feast)

Girolle or chanterelle mushrooms

Years ago during a period when I was unhappy about what I was doing professionally, I found some personal compensation when we moved into a splendid penthouse apartment in an old Brooklyn Heights skyscraper with panoramic East River views of Manhattan (including the Verazzano Narrows Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and what modern New Yorkers remade of John Marin’s lower Manhattan skyline) and our first brand-new kitchen with good appliances.

Because I wasn’t enjoying my work, I unconsciously determined to take pleasure in something else and we spent a lot of time learning to cook and exploring food and wine subjects.   

Along the way, I discovered Jane Grigson’s excellent, beautifully written books (Mrs. Grigson continued in the culinary/literary tradition forged by the still incomparable Elizabeth David), including The Mushroom Feast, which contains the following excellent recipe for girolle (also known as chanterelle) mushrooms on toast.   The recipe’s appeal is obvious, I think, but especially for me because I basically live on things I put on toast.

Jane Grigson 

Mrs. Grigson’s recipe calls for 2-3 pounds of chanterelles, which at today’s prices makes this a very expensive dish to prepare.  Therefore, I would like to note the obvious, i.e., you can prepare this dish successfully either as written or instead using a mixture of chanterelles and/or any other types of mushrooms, including domestic cultivated mushrooms, in any combinations that strike your fancy.  

It’s a very simple, earthy but elegant recipe and very, very good.

Jane Grigson's Girolles on buttered toast

"In spite of undeniably good recipes like the girolles a la forestiere which follows, or the delicious flavor of chicken and girolles together, I still think that the best way of eating them is the simplest one of all.  If you choose biscottes in preference to bread, you will agree with me, I think, that this recipe combines crispness and beautifully flavored chewiness, both set off by butter, black pepper and some parsley.

Serves 4

2-3 pounds girolles
1 clove garlic finely chopped
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
Parsley, chopped
Well buttered biscottes, or rusks, or toast

Girolles on buttered toast

Trim off the earthy part of the girolle stems, then wash the caps quickly but carefully, and drain them well.  Cook them in several tablespoons of butter, adding the garlic.  Keep the heat high, once the mushrooms begin exuding their juice – some people drain off this liquid, and complete the cooking of the mushrooms in fresh butter.  It very much depends on how wet or dry the girolles are, which again depends on the season in which they are picked.   The answer is to drain off the liquid if it doesn’t evaporate before the mushrooms are cooked; they must not be allowed to stew to leather.  Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with parlsey, and serve on biscottes, rusks or toasts immediately."

ACravan Notes:

1.    1. The forestiere recipe Mrs. Grigson mentions above, which also appears in The Mushroom Feast,  is very similar to this one, but contains new potatoes and smoked bacon cut into strips. It is excellent.

2.   "The girolle or chanterelle of French cooking.  Dried, in food shops, or canned, but common in deciduous woods, where it shows up yellow as apricots against green moss.  It smells of apricot too.  The beauty of the color is matched by the beauty of its form, a curving trumpet, with delicate ribs running from the stalk through to the under edge of the cap like fine vaulting.   Fry in butter with chopped onion or shallot, garlic and parsley.  Delicious in sauces and with eggs.  An incomparable flavor.”    (Jane Grigson: The Mushroom Feast, Penguin, London, 1975.)

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