Sauteed Mushrooms - Toasted!
The only way I had ever had mushrooms was sauteed in butter with onion. Nice! Love it - always have and always will.
But a few months ago I heard a clip of Julia Child talking about the correct way to turn a mushroom, and about toasting them without crowding the pan. Really? I have a compulsion to try things in the kitchen, usually just so that I can say that I have. I never did find out how she did it, but just hearing that much made me realize what to do. Mushrooms are groovy as far as I'm concerned, so I thought I'd try it.
Dear me. The result was something so divine, so elevated from what I knew a mushroom to be, that I thought I'd been just a little bit graced. The method made all the difference in the world. This works with all kinds of mushrooms - I've used button and criminis mostly, but try this with portobellos and be prepared to get jewelry from whomever you serve it to.
I think of this as much more of a method than a strict recipe. You'll need:
- Mushrooms - I used about half a pound, but however much you want
- Butter - about 2 tablespoons
- Olive oil - about 2 tablespoons
- 5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme
- salt and pepper
- Clean your mushrooms by rubbing them with a damp paper towel. Don't wash them - there's debate over whether or not a mushroom absorbs much water if they are washed, but they do take up some. In this application we want them very dry so they will caramelize complelely. If there's water involved, they'll steam instead and the result is very, very different.
- You do want to clean them though - mushrooms now come pretty clean to begin with, but they do ocasionally show up with clods of the growing medium still clinging to them (it's a sterile medium, NOT what is commonly thought to grow mushrooms!). You don't want to eat that, so brush it off.
- Slice the mushrooms thinly. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt a tsp or two of butter with a tsp or two of olive oil. You want both because olive oil has a higher smoke point - it won't burn like butter will, and using it will allow the butter to get hotter without burning. Butter however is necessary for the flavor. The little bit of milk solids will also help the mushrooms turn golden and toasty. You also only want enough to just cover the bottom of the pan. More and you'll fry the mushrooms - again, yummy, but not what we're after here.
- Into the skillet, place a couple sprigs of the fresh thyme and a single layer of mushroom slices. Make sure you leave room between them. If they're too close together, they'll steam and won't get golden. Sprinkle the mushrooms with salt and pepper, and let them cook on the first side. If you want you can shake the pan, but don't turn them or stir them. You want the sugars to caramelize, and this happens when they stay in contact with the hot skillet.
- The mushrooms will absorb the oil almost immediately, and the pan will appear almost dry. This is fine. Once the edges have turned golden, and the tops appear moist, flip one and check. You're looking for a deep, luscious golden brown. That's when you flip, and it can take a few minutes. Be patient.
- Toast the mushrooms on the second side until just as golden, then turn onto a plate and keep warm in a slow oven (150F).
- Add more oil and butter to the pan, and continue again with the remaining mushrooms.
- These are amazing all by themselves, and I usually serve them just like that. However, if you'd like, you can make a little sherried cream to dress them with when they're done. To do that:
- Deglaze the hot pan with about 2 Tbl dry sherry. It will nearly dry very quickly. Whisk it well to scrape all the fond - the brown bits - off the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to low. Add about 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream, and bring to a simmer. Allow it to simmer for a few minutes, or until reduced to about 1/3 of a cup. Taste for seasoning, and re-season if necessary.
- To serve, simply drizzle the sherried cream over the warm mushrooms. Garnish with the toasted thyme. Serve immediately.
If by chance you have some left over, try Mushroom Parmesan Risotto!
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