Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
In this work-from-home era, I find simple joy in cooking up fresh lunches for myself. But this calls for something relatively basic and flexible that I can make without derailing my to-do list.
The solution? Toast. I love a classic avocado toast (specifically with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice, plus a dash of Aleppo pepper flakes if I’m feeling crazy), but I don’t find it filling enough for a full meal. For an alternative that’s more substantial and works for brunch, lunch, a snack or even dinner, I sauté mushrooms with surefire flavor companions like thyme and Sherry vinegar and spoon them onto high quality toast spread with a layer of fresh goat cheese.
I use a mix of creminis and shiitakes for interest and keep them in pieces rather than slicing them, making for a dish that’s more hearty and rustic than delicate and light. Because my goal is to create a meaty rather than crispy mushroom texture, I can easily clean the mushrooms by submerging them in water instead of scrubbing each one meticulously with a brush, the desired technique for achieving a crisp exterior.
Virtually any kind of bread will work here, but the dish is best with a heartier loaf for a crunchy toast that will withstand sogginess once it’s topped with warm mushrooms. I developed this recipe while visiting my sister in Philadelphia, home to a cute local spot called Metropolitan Bakery. I tried two types of loaves and wound up going with their signature pain au levain, which the bakery describes as a sourdough with a thick crust and a dense, chewy interior.
The slices crisped up nicely in the pan; pressing them down with a spatula every so often to mimic an actual bread press helped make them a more stable foundation for the dish. They’ll go from toasted to a light char pretty fast, so peek underneath the slices as they cook to make sure they’re browning evenly and not burning.
If you’re making the full four servings, sauté the mushrooms in two batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. But if you’re scaling down to one or two toasts, as I usually do, that cuts the cooking time almost in half. Because I’m aiming for that meaty texture, the mushrooms can be made a day ahead. Just pull the cooked mushrooms from your fridge and let them sit for a half hour or so until they come to room temperature. Or, if you prefer them warm, pop them in the microwave for 15 seconds or into a hot skillet for about the same time.
The spreadable goat cheese adds a tart creaminess that accents the acidity of the recipe’s two vinegars (Sherry for acidity, balsamic for sweetness) and contrasts the buttery mushrooms, creating a balanced bite that begs for a white wine.
I picked up an accessible Chardonnay, Qupé Chardonnay Santa Barbara County Y Block 2018, which has a suggested release price of $22, but I found it for $11. It definitely had the buttery component I was seeking to match with the mushrooms, with a salt-tinged acidity that accented the goat cheese—the right mix of rich and refreshing, much like the dish itself.
Mushroom-Thyme Toast with Goat Cheese and Sherry Vinegar
Pair with a savory California Chardonnay, such as Qupé Chardonnay Santa Barbara County Y Block 2018 (88 points, $22).
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes (or less without batches)
Total time: 55 minutes
Approximate food costs: $25
- 12 cups small cremini and shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed
- 4 slices hearty bread
- 5 tablespoons salted butter, divided, at room temperature
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped (about 4 sprigs)
- 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
- 4 ounces fresh, soft goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons high quality olive oil for drizzling (optional)
1. Add mushrooms to a large bowl and rinse with a few changes of water, then gently wipe with a kitchen towel. Cut each mushroom into quarters, or sixths for any slightly larger ones, aiming for bite-sized pieces.
2. Butter both sides of the bread slices, using about 1/2 tablespoon of butter per side. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the bread to the skillet and toast until crispy and golden with some charred spots, about 3 minutes each side, pressing with a spatula every 30 seconds or so. (If you do not have a large enough skillet to hold all 4 slices, do this part in two batches or in two skillets.) Transfer to a plate or cutting board and set aside.
3. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter in the same skillet, still set over medium-high heat. Add half the mushrooms to the skillet with 2 tablespoons of water and season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat in the butter and let cook undisturbed until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir and let cook for another 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, stir in garlic and thyme, add 1 tablespoon of Sherry vinegar to the pan and let cook for 3 more minutes until the liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms are slightly browned. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the rest of the mushrooms. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
4. Spread goat cheese on each cooled slice of bread, top with the cooked mushrooms and lightly drizzle with balsamic vinegar and, if desired, olive oil. Serves 4.