Will the farmer’s markets come back as they once were? I sure hope so, not just because I derive great joy from being around produce but because I am harboring a regret: I never bought fresh mushrooms from the mushroom stand. Each visit, without fail, I lurked and leered at the frilly and shapely piles of fungus but never bought anything. After having just accidentally spent $27 on tomatoes (again), it seemed frivolous to spend $10 on a mystery bag of mushrooms. I regret that. I know it would have been worth it. And I can even think of the perfect thing to do with them: Mushrooms on Toast.
This is my favorite meat-free but still indulgent meal. I serve it to friends, I serve to my family, I serve it to myself to feel special. When I sit down to a plate of it, it never fails to evoke delight and impatience—I can’t cut into it fast enough.
Upon the sturdy canvas of white bread, gussied-up mushrooms take center stage, enrobed in a thick, cheesy sauce and runny egg yolk. If reading that makes you miss your farmers market mushroom stand too, know that the grocery store has your back. I bought one of those pre-sliced mixed mushroom packages, mainly because that particular batch included some sassy yellow oyster mushrooms peeking out like canaries amongst sparrows.
To bulk it up, I threw in some plain old white button mushrooms, quartered. Then I tossed them with thyme, shallot, garlic and olive oil, and roasted the mushrooms at high heat until they became soft and golden around the edges.
The ooh-la-la part comes from the Mornay sauce. Mornay is a bechamel (milk thickened with a paste of cooked flour and butter) mixed with cheese; its flavors are deepened with mustard, aromatics, and bay leaves. As the aromatic flavors are readily present in the roasted mushrooms, my Mornay sauce is simpler than the classic but no less luscious.
Crown the whole elegant mess with a fried egg, and you’ve got something to make you snatch up your fork and ignore everyone else at the table.
Until I can safely visit the farmer’s market again, I’ll be making this as a nod to my lost mushroom stand. Next time I get to go, I won’t pass it by.
Note: The Mornay sauce recipe makes more than needed for our toasts here, but the surplus can be frozen and resuscitated later by warming gently and whisking in a little milk. Or keep it in your fridge for a few days and drizzle it on cauliflower, mix with pasta, or spoon over fries.
Prep Time: 10 minutes. Cook time: 20 minutes. Serves 2.
- 2 slices of country loaf, sourdough, or any sturdy white bread
- 16 oz. of assorted mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
- 1 small shallot, finely diced
- 2-3 thyme sprigs
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Olive oil and/or butter
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chives, optional
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 tsp. mustard powder or dijon mustard
- 1 heaping cup grated extra sharp white cheddar or Gruyere
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare the mushrooms: quarter some, slice some, tear others—a variety of size and textures is ideal. Mix mushrooms, shallots, garlic, a tablespoon of olive oil, and thyme leaves in a baking dish and roast for 10 minutes. Stir mixture, and roast for another 5-8 minutes until mushrooms are tender and golden. Season with salt and pepper.
While mushrooms are roasting, prepare Mornay sauce. Melt butter in a medium saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook for 2-3 minutes, whisking frequently, until it looks like a pale paste; it should not take on any color. Warm milk in the microwave for one minute, then drizzle slowly into your flour mixture, whisking constantly to avoid clumping. Bring mixture to a simmer and let it cook for 5 minutes until thickened and creamy. Whisk frequently to make sure the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Once thickened, turn off the heat and stir in the mustard and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
When your mushrooms and Mornay sauce are finished, brush the bread slices with oil or butter and toast. Fry the eggs, leaving the yolks runny.
Top each slice of toast with a mound of mushrooms and pan juices, dollop on the Mornay sauce and slide an egg onto the top. Finish with salt and chives, if using.