Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Shitake Mushrooms with Sourdough Toast and Rosemary Blue Cheese Creme Fraiche

You know a restaurant takes sustainable sourcing seriously when its recipes are named for particular vegetable varieties grown in their own garden. That was one of things I loved about The Ethicurean Cookbook of which I received a review copy. The Ethicurean restaurant and kitchen are located in two glasshouses of the Barley Wood Walled Garden on an estate just outside Bristol in England. The restaurant is run by a group of four friends who joined together on this mission in 2010 to highlight seasonality and sustainable sourcing. Vegetables and fruits come from the Walled Garden and orchards including 70 varieties of apples, and other ingredients are carefully sourced or foraged nearby. I was confused about the recipe for Sea Robin with Fennel Butter Sauce and Herbed Pink Firs until I read through it and learned that sea robin is another name for gurnard which is a thin, mild, white fish. And, pink fir is a type of waxy potato grown in the restaurant’s garden. Of course, in the spirit of The Ethicurean, it would make perfect sense to substitute ingredients that are local and seasonal to the reader. The book is divided by season, and it’s full of stories about what’s growing at different times of the year. There are also lots of side notes about the history of some ingredients and explanations of food science. In the recipe for Caerphilly and Cider Welsh Rabbit, the authors explain that since Caerphilly is a mature cheddar with a good level of acidity and high moisture content, the casein molecules in the cheese will separate preventing it from becoming stringy when it melts. The photo of the lovely, broiled and cheese-filled sandwich next to a fresh, crisp salad looks delicious. Some other dishes that caught my eye were the Ewe’s-Curd-Stuffed Courgette Flowers with Fennel Sherbet; the Crab Salad with New Potatoes, Pickled Carrot and Smoked Paprika Mayonnaise; the homemade Vermouth; the Globe Artichokes with Hollandaise Sauce and Sumac; and the Chocolate and Salt Caramel Brownies with Cherry and Elderflower Sauce. 

Kurt and I share a fondness for blue cheese, so my first stop in the book was at the recipe titled Wild Mushrooms with Sourdough Toast and Thyme Stichelton Creme Fraiche. I made a few changes to keep the sourcing at least a little closer to home. We have fresh, locally-cultivated mushrooms that are available year-round, so I used local shitakes. I usually have thyme in my herb garden, but it died back during one of our freezes this winter. I substituted rosemary for it since I always have rosemary growing in multiple spots in our yard. And, last, rather than using Stichelton which is a British-made, raw milk, blue cheese, I used Jasper Hill Farms’ Bayley Hazen Blue which is also a raw milk blue. On little pieces of sourdough baguette, these mushroom toasts are a great appetizer. The mushrooms were sliced and then sauteed in some oil with chopped rosemary (or thyme). They were left to brown a bit before being stirred and turned. When fully cooked, butter was added to the mushrooms with a sprinkling of sea salt. The topping is an easy mix of creme fraiche,  blue cheese, and some rosemary in my case that was combined in the blender. The sauteed mushrooms were spooned onto pieces of toasted bread and topped with the blue cheese creme fraiche. My rosemary still had some flowers clinging to the sprigs which I used as garnish. 

I might have made some extra blue cheese creme fraiche and learned that it also makes a fabulous dipping sauce for roasted potato wedges. But, it was perfect with the mushroom toasts. They were crunchy and savory and a nice start to a meal on one of our chilly days. I’ll be looking back to this book for inspiration as the seasons change and different ingredients are at their best. 

Wild Mushroom with Sourdough Toast and Thyme Stichelton Creme Fraiche 
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from The Ethicurean Cookbook (Ebury Press).

Serves 4 

2 tbsp rapeseed oil 
300g mixed wild mushrooms, such as slippery jack, penny bun, russula, horse mushroom, sheep’s foot and puffballs, cleaned and sliced into 1cm strips 
leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme 
25g unsalted butter 
8 very thin slices of sourdough bread 
fine sea salt flaky sea salt 

For the thyme Stichelton creme fraiche: 
25g Stichelton cheese, roughly chopped 
75ml creme fraiche 
leaves from 5 sprigs of thyme 

For the thyme Stichelton creme fraiche, put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse to a semi- coarse consistency. Season with salt to taste and set aside. 

Place a large frying pan over a high heat and leave until it is very hot. Add the rapeseed oil; it should begin to smoke. Immediately add the mushrooms and thyme leaves, plus a dusting of fine salt, and toss to coat them evenly with the oil. Leave undisturbed for a minute or so, until the mushrooms colour ever so slightly, then toss and colour on the other side. Remove from the heat and add the butter to the pan. Toss until it has melted and the mushrooms are evenly coated, then check the seasoning. 

While the mushrooms are cooking, put the sourdough bread under a hot grill and toast, turning every minute, until both sides are golden brown. Thin slices of bread will curl under the grill, and the regular turning prevents this happening. Remove the sourdough from the grill and add a couple of slices to each plate. Cover with the mushrooms, season with flaky sea salt and add a heaped tablespoon of the Stichelton creme fraiche.

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  1. Beautiful! I love evrything about these refined crostini.



  2. Sounds great and the title of your post already had me drooling....

  3. Very nice take on crostini, elegant, refined, just perfect!

    Interesting cookbook indeed...

  4. The concept of this cookbook is very interesting and the crostinis are out of this world - refined and elegant.

  5. what an incredible combo - looks delicious!

  6. I have one question before I gush about how much I adore this dish...Is there a cookbook in your future? I love the way you pick up on a dishes nuances and run with it, Lisa. This appetizer is a perfect example. The book may have been your inspiration but, you have made the presentation and elegance all your own. Thank you so much for sharing, Lisa...

  7. When I was very young I fished very occasionally, and sometimes used to catch sea robins. I never caught enough to bother cooking them, though, so I always returned them to their home! Anyway, lovely dish. All the flavors work so well together. And I second Louise's thought that you should write your own cookbook!

  8. I have never tried shitake mushrooms before, maybe it could persuade me to enjoy mushrooms for once! I love the crusty toast as well :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  9. Sounds like a pretty cool concept for a restaurant and a cookbook! I'm not sure that I've ever paired mushrooms with blue cheese, but I'm sure that earthy flavor compliments the bold blue!

  10. What a beautiful appetizer Lisa. Love that blue cheese creme fraiche. And thanks to the introduction to the restaurant/cookbook.

  11. Estas tostadas estàn de lujo muy exquisitas,abrazos.

  12. Oh my goodness! These toasts look incredible. Must be umami and earthy. They would make a great appetizer or snack at any time. By the way, I love how you used the rosemary flowers as decoration. Very pretty! Brilliant!

  13. and here we have yet another example of something i would love if only i could bear to eat mushrooms! beautiful toasts. :)

  14. I have a fondness for blue cheese too. I think I'd love these!

  15. Just got done reading a post about garlic shrimp toast, and now you.
    Bread is screaming at me to be eaten.
    I am starving.

  16. Such a nice finger food Lisa, I can only imagine a bite of this savory treat...yum!
    Thanks for sharing the recipe...have a great weekend ahead :D

  17. What an interesting book! I haven't heard of sea robin but had pink fir potatoes. What a comforting yet elegant snack :D

  18. Lisa, I am sure the cookbook is just wonderful, as is your recipe. This looks like something right down my alley...I love Shiitake mushrooms!

  19. What gorgeous, elegant toasts! Love the combo of mushrooms and blue cheese :)
    PS...good to know a sea robin is not a bird!


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