Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Celebrate Teacher’s Day!
What’s cooking? Mushroom Toast

In my humble opinion, there is no group more deserving of a special day than teachers. You may grimace at the elementary school teacher who kept you in from recess for misbehaving, or the high school teacher who seemed to have his/her favorites, or even the college professor who made a pass at you, but these are such a small minority that I hesitate even to mention them.

Here are the ones I do want to mention:
■ Mrs. Sweeney, my 2nd grade teacher who literally forced me to overcome my fear of competition in arithmetic races;
■ Marilyn Montgomery, my 7th grade math teacher who proved to me that you could be both glamorous and good at math;
■ Paul Foerster, my high school math teacher, who taught me that higher math could be fun and useful;
■ The writers Phyllis Theroux and Susan Shapiro, who helped me find my voice;
■ The angels who shepherded and inspired my own darling sons through nursery school and all the way through law school and med school – way too many to name. And now those who have my grandchildren as well.
■ My good friend, Anne Poyner, who, as a drama teacher at Summit High School, has convinced thousands of young men and women that they are capable of greatness beyond their imaginations if they work hard and support each other.

Most teachers care deeply about even the monsters that show up day after day in their classrooms; they are incredibly patient with the whiny kids and whinier parents who don’t understand why they can’t be granted yet another exception to the rules that give us a civilized society. They come in early and stay late to offer help and encouragement, then they go home and grade papers while the rest of us watch “Dancing with the Stars.”

But it’s worth it to them because of the millions they make in compensation.... Oh, wait – that’s wrong. In fact, it’s embarrassing how little we pay for their efforts.

So to all those teachers, I congratulate you on your dedication and invaluable, unending efforts to make the world a better place. Happy Teachers’ Day!

And now, in honor of those amazing molders of minds, the Kitchen Goddess has a dish that’s not just delicious, but fast and easy to prepare. And if you stick to crimini mushrooms, it’s also easy on the wallet.

Kitchen Goddess note on mushrooms: You want to cook mushrooms as soon as possible after buying them, but if that’s going to be a couple of days, store them – without washing – in a paper bag in the fridge or another cool, dark spot. Avoid keeping them in the vegetable drawers because those are areas of high humidity. You want them as dry as possible when you toss them into your skillet, so the best method of clearing them of debris is to wipe them with a clean, damp cloth or paper towel. If you feel compelled to use water, dump them into a bowl of water, swish them around, and quickly pull them out. Lay them on paper towels or kitchen cloths and blot them dry.

Mushroom Toast

Adapted from David Tanis in The New York Times.

Serves 2. (There’s actually enough mushroom mixture to serve 4 pieces of bread, but – trust me – you’ll want seconds.)

2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for toasting the bread
1 pound cremini mushrooms (or a mix of cremini and white button mushrooms or shiitakes, or morels), sliced about ⅛ inch thick
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 small garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons medium-dry sherry (like Amontillado)
¼ cup crème fraîche
2-4 thick slices country bread, for toasting
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

The process of cooking and assembling this dish takes about 20 minutes total, so this is another of those recipes that needs to start with a reminder to get your mise en place before you turn on the heat. (Plus, you’ll feel incredibly professional – I know I do.) Have your mushrooms and bread sliced, and the other ingredients measured out and ready to go. And now that you’re ready,...

Lightly spread butter on both sides of the bread, and set aside.

Kitchen Goddess note on cooking mushrooms (repeated from other mushroom posts to make sure you don’t forget): It is easy to screw up sautéed mushrooms. Also easy to do it right, as long as you are careful that (1) the mushrooms are dry; and (2) you get the butter hot enough that it foams and then subsides before you add the mushrooms.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Swirl it around to cover the entire bottom of the pan. When the butter foams and the foam subsides, it’s time to add the mushrooms.

Before they lose all that water...
Toss the mushrooms in the hot fat for 4-5 minutes, stirring almost constantly, during which time they’ll absorb all the fat. Continue to cook them, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes, when they’ll release some of that fat and brown.

And after.

Stir in the thyme and garlic, to combine well. Season well with salt and pepper – mushrooms don’t have that much taste on their own – then add the sherry and the crème fraîche. Bring the mixture to a bare simmer and cook another 2 minutes.

While the mushroom mix is simmering, in a separate skillet, toast the bread until it’s a golden color. (You can also use a grill or broiler to toast the bread – your choice. But in that case, you may want to wait to butter the bread until after it’s toasted.)

Place a piece of bread on a plate. (For extra elegance, heat the plates before serving.) Spoon the mushroom mixture over the toast, and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

And say a small prayer of thanks for the teachers in your lives.


  1. This reminds me of the dish at Forthright! Yum!

    1. I've never been there -- but I looked at the menu and you're exactly right! I'll have to go there and see what the difference is. Thx!