Monday, December 3, 2012

Warm Mushroom Salad

There are times when earthy mushrooms really hit the spot.

This salad can help fulfill that mushroom need, and also happens to be a particularly wonderful autumn/winter dish- it's warm, it utilizes those lovely rich and meaty mushrooms, it's filling and has the potential for the moniker of "meal" (and really, you may not miss the actual meat).

It's got many of the components I like in a salad- nutty crunch, a bit of sharp zing and piquancy, sweetness, savoriness, some herbal notes, crispness, some creaminess, that aforementioned meatiness, and a variety of flavors with every bite.

Thyme is my favorite herb (and it goes so well with mushrooms), and the jury is still out, but my favorite vinegar just may be sherry. I'm not sure that this salad as a whole would work quite so well with a different vinegar used in the vinaigrette. It somehow pulls everything together- picking up the nutty notes in other places such as the toasted hazelnuts and the hard sheep's milk Pecorino cheese.
And I'm not saying I don't like Pecorino, but I think it has it's place. While I can eat Parmesan as is (or slightly modified with additions like toasted walnuts and honey), in my opinion Pecorino seems to be a little more temperamental and can have a bit of a "sheep-y" quality... yes, it is a sheep's milk cheese, after all. I don't think I've ever wanted to just eat a chunk of it, but it goes so well in thin slivers on this salad.

Sometimes with mushrooms it's visually and texturally pleasing to have different cuts with different types- some thickly sliced, maybe some quartered, perhaps some sort of shredded. When all the mushrooms have been prepped for cooking, it may look like there's far too much (and I suppose it depends on how much one likes mushrooms as to their opinion on the matter). Just remember that mushrooms cook down and can shrink considerably- apparently they can be more than 80% water. They don't require a long cooking time and it's nice if the mushrooms can retain a bit of their original texture.

By no means is it required to use the mushrooms I have listed, that's just what I like. They have different textures, a variety of subtle flavors and qualities. You could use any mushrooms you like or what you can find in about the same total quantity as in the recipe below.

And if I happen to have leftovers, I like to mix things together before storing. The mushrooms/parsley and green onion/extra dressing tossed together are really nice with toast and a poached egg (like a mushroom hash, I suppose).

Warm Mushroom Salad 
Adapted from a recipe by Suzanne Goin in Sunday Suppers at Lucques.
serves 4-8

1/2 c. (64 g) roughly chopped hazelnuts
1 lb. (454 g) white button mushrooms
1/2 1b. (227 g) shiitake mushrooms
1/4 lb. (115 g) chanterelle mushrooms
2 T (22 g) minced and 1/4 c (47 g) sliced shallot, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T (45 ml) sherry vinegar
8 T (120 g) olive oil, divided
1 T (15 g) butter
2 t (2 g) fresh minced thyme leaves (or 1 t dried thyme)
1/2 c (15 g) minced parsley
1/2 c (38 g) thinly sliced green onion
6-8 oz. (170-230 g) mixed greens
a wedge of Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F/190 C.
Place hazelnuts on a sheet pan and toast in the oven 5-8 minutes, shaking the pan a couple times so the nuts brown evenly. Set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle chop a bit more if you like.

Clean the mushrooms under cool running water and dry gently. Trim and slice as appropriate and set aside in a large bowl.
Place the minced shallots, 1/2 t (4 g) salt, and sherry vinegar in a bowl, mix, and let sit 5-10 minutes. Whisk in 5 T (75 g) olive oil and set aside. 

Toss together the chopped parsley and green onions in a bowl and set aside. 

In a large saute pan heated over medium, place about half the remaining olive oil and half the knob of butter.  When the butter melts and foams, pour in about half of the mushrooms, half of the thyme, and salt and pepper to season. Saute 3-5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have given up some liquid and are cooked but not completely limp. Remove the cooked mushrooms to a plate and repeat with the remaining mushrooms, etc. Once all the mushrooms have been cooked, add the first batch of mushrooms back to the pan with the second batch. Add the sliced shallots and minced garlic and saute everything together a few minutes, until the shallots are slightly cooked and the mushrooms have been heated through. Remove all of the mushroom mixture to a plate. 

Pour the sherry vinaigrette to the hot pan, add a nice pinch of salt and several grinds of fresh pepper, and swirl until it's heated through. 

Divide the greens among plates, sprinkle with the chopped parsley and green onions, and spoon warmed vinaigrette over each salad. Divide the mushrooms among the tops of the salads, shave the cheese over the tops of the salads with a vegetable peeler, and sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts. 
Serve immediately.  


  1. Had this salad (loved it), and with the leftover mushrooms , as you suggested, the next morning I had it on toast w/ a poached egg----mmmmmmm, sooo good.thanks for the idea!

  2. Thing I find most interesting about mushrooms is their underground connection to each other. Amazing!

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