Every Saturday I go to the local farmer’s market and almost every Saturday I buy some of my produce for the week from one particular vendor, a kind and cheerful woman who sells several types of mushrooms and nothing else.
She is, hands down, my favorite vendor at the market, not least of which because she always makes time to dote on my baby. (What can I say? I’m easily won over.)
I buy the workhorse cremini mushrooms more often than any other type, but the ruffle-y, gray clusters of oyster mushrooms always beckon to me. The trouble is, oyster mushrooms are expensive and I’ve never been quite sure how to showcase them best.
Am I the only one to have fallen victim to the siren song of pricey mushrooms only to let them languish in the refrigerator until they are shriveled and unappetizing?
This recipe from “The Southern Vegetarian,” the cookbook written by Chubby Vegetarian bloggers Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence, may have solved that dilemma for good. I’ve succumbed to the lure of the oyster mushrooms twice this month already, but I haven’t been sorry at all.
This dish is a riff on the New Orleans classic Oysters Rockefeller using mushrooms in place of the bivalves and it became an immediate hit in our house.
Although the original Oysters Rockefeller recipe apparently contains no spinach, this version is essentially creamed spinach topped with a layer of sautéed mushrooms, a description that doesn’t quite do justice to the unctuous end result.
Burks and Lawrence serve their creation as an appetizer in little ceramic spoons and I can imagine it being a lovely start to a formal dinner party. But I took the recipe in another direction and made open-faced sandwiches for a casual supper at home.
Try it either way but, be forewarned, you might be powerless to avoid spending more on mushrooms from here on out.
Adapted from "The Southern Vegetarian" cookbook, by Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence. The original recipe called for Pernod and vermouth, which I didn't have and left out. I also streamlined the process just a tiny bit and served the mushrooms as open-faced sandwiches instead of in ceramic appetizer spoons.
Burks and Lawrence recommend shiitake mushrooms as a potential substitute for oyster mushrooms, but I think it's worth seeking out the oyster mushrooms if you can. This dish really showcases them well.
- 5 oz. fresh spinach
- 2 T. butter, divided
- 1 T. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 12 large oyster mushroom caps, woody stems trimmed off
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1/4 cup diced shallots
- 1 T. minced garlic
- 1 T. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup milk (the original recipe calls for whole milk but I used skim with good results)
- generous 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 T. bread crumbs, preferably panko
- 4 − 5 slices of good bread
- 2 T. finely chopped parsley
- Lemon wedges
Blanch your spinach by dunking into boiling water for about 30 seconds. Place blanched spinach in to an ice water bath to halt the cooking process or simply move it to a colander and rinse with cold water. When the spinach is cool enough to touch, squeeze it to remove as much liquid as possible and then coarsely chop. Set aside.
Melt 1 T. of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and sear the mushroom caps until golden brown on both sides. This should take about 2 minutes per side. Place mushrooms on a plate and season with salt and pepper.
In the same pan, sauté the shallots and garlic until soft. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and the flour to the shallot and garlic mixture and stir or whisk until the mixture begins to give off a slightly nutty scent and the flour takes on a little bit of color. This should only take a minute or two.
Slowly add the milk, stirring or whisking to prevent any lumps. Add the spinach and stir until the mixture thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Mix the Parmesan and bread crumbs together and set aside.
Turn on your oven's broiler. Arrange the bread in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and set under the broiler for a minute or so, until the tops of the slices are just beginning to toast. Flip the slices and repeat on the other side. (Or skip toasting the bread entirely. It will still be good.)
Remove the pan from the oven and top each slice of bread with some of the spinach mixture, a few of the mushroom caps and a little of the cheese and breadcrumbs. Drizzle with olive oil and place back under the broiler until golden brown.
Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve with plenty of lemon wedges.