IMG_3897

entertaining friends (buttery wild mushroom toasts)


For the last three days, I’ve been in the company of two of my favorite people. And at the same time, I’ve been virtually surrounded by some of my new “friends.”

When I was 22, back in the early ’80s, I had a business. I was a sales representative for a number of newly minted, or recently imported, kitchenware and housewares manufacturers. I was in Pittsburgh and Catherine, who had a similar, more established, much larger, business in New York taught me everything about running a business and being productive working from home.

She was a few years older, and so glamorous and cosmopolitan. Catherine and her husband, Jerry, a big personality, smart as a whip, real live Mad Man, hosted long weekends at their Hudson, NY country home. Exceptional food, remarkable wines, fascinating people. Music, hilarious story telling, quiet bookish corners. Everything I was reading about in lifestyle magazines.

It was a heady experience for me, and I just drank it in. And those weekends have influenced the way I entertain for a quarter century.

Over time, life changes, distance and whatevers got in the way, and we lost contact. Then, along comes Facebook, and a dream I had led to contact. Catherine opened her spectacular home a few months ago when we drove through on our way to upstate NY. It was the first time we’d seen eachother in nearly 25 years. She’s a mother to two grown girls. Still incredibly, brilliantly running an empire. Jerry has had a stellar career working for companies with names you would recognize.

They arrived in DC on Saturday and we’ve had a wonderful time for the last two and a half days.

Thank heavens for Food52 – the very best resource for clever, unusual, show stopping recipes. And for recipes and inspiration from Kim O’Donnel, Amanda Hesser, Rivka Friedman, Kate at Savour-Fare, Michael Ruhlman, Anna Saint John and David Lebovitz. I know some of you. I hope to someday meet the rest of you. With your help, I put together some great food. I did not take a lot of photos.

I won’t bore you with all the story telling. But I will tell you what I stirred up in the kitchen.

Upon arrival, we snacked on French hard cider and this exceptional Savory Plum Tart.

Baked Kale Chips from Kim O’Donnel’s terrific new cookbook Meat Lovers Meatless Cookbook. These kale chips have been a big BIG hit at every cocktail party I’ve had lately. Thanks, Kim.

And as a real surprise offering, these salty, warm, oozy cheesy fried olives. And by the way, I made just a dozen, and fried them in three batches in a small one quart saucepan and 1″ of oil. Frying doesn’t have to be scary or messy.

For Saturday night dinner, I made the roast duck from The Cook and The Gardener, my favorite Amanda Hesser cookbook, at least until The Essential New  York Times Cookbook came out last week. My allegiance might be put to the test.

Gnocchi with Butternut Squash and Shiitake from the Bouchon cookbook. Fennel and Bok Choy saute.

Salad of roasted diced golden, chiogga, and ruby beets on baby arugula with pistachio oil and a wedge of Boucheron.

Wine – Callejo Tempranillo

Dessert was Rhubarb Curd Shortbread from Rivka, who writes the charming Not Derby Pie blog.

Sunday breakfast was homemade challah with a variety of jams

After the farmer’s market brunch, with Veuve Cliquot –

Grilled oysters, sherry vinager mignonette

Sauteed chicken of the woods mushrooms, fontina, toast

Smoked trout, horseradish sauce

Baby arugula salad with roasted cherry tomato confit, ricotta salata

——- disappointed to find Hillwood closed, so opted for a driving tour of the city ————

Snacks (Marlborough Dry Riesling)

French breakfast radishes, sweet butter, Maldon salt

Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam. Soprasata from Meatcrafters (Both available at the Bethesda Central Farm Market.)

Spinach Yogurt Borani Esfanaaj and whole wheat pita.

Dinner (Morgan Chardonnay)

Anna Saint John’s Thai Green Curry Paste with Puritan Cod, Green Eggplant and Carrots. Cilantro Rice. (Note – Anna’s paste was exceptionally good – but if you don’t live in DC, and can’t get to the Bethesda Central Farm Market, try this recipe by Kate at Savour Fare – it’s wonderful.

Grilled Brussel Sprouts with Homemade Bacon Lardons – so so so good. Put this on your list. Make it.

Salted Pumpkin Caramels (Thanks, Christine!)

And Halloween Candy. Because it’s there.

Our last morning together, breakfast was a variation on a fantastic David Lebovitz white chocolate and dried sour cherry scone – his are made with buckwheat. I substitute oat flour. Make these scones. They are beyond wonderful.

It was a glorious weekend celebrating friendship. We’re heading into the houseguest season. What’s your favorite show-stopping recipe for company?

Can’t wait to see you again, C & J. xox

Buttery Wild Mushroom Toasts
Serves 4

These were a spur of the moment creation. The chicken of the woods mushroom is not very moist – and if I were to make it again, I might simmer them in a little cream before piling them on the bread. Most other mushrooms will exude some yummy liquid and might not need the cream. I think it wouldn’t hurt, in any case…

8 – 1″ thick slices baguette, sliced on the diagonal
8 slices fontina
4 oz softened butter
2 large shallots, minced
1 qt chicken of the woods mushrooms (or other wild mushrooms or even plain old crimini!)
4 oz dry white vermouth
1/4 c heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°
Slice the mushrooms into slivers.
Toast the bread on a sheet pan for about 5 minutes.
Remove the bread from the oven, butter well and place the slice of fontina on each piece of baguette.
In a large skillet, melt 2 oz of the butter until foaming and add the shallot, cooking until transparent.
Add the mushrooms and cook slowly, do not stir, until they start to exude liquid, then stir gently.
Turn up the heat, add the vermouth, and cook off the alcohol, then turn down the heat and simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Slide the cheese covered baguette back in the oven to melt the cheese, about 6 minutes.
Add the cream to the mushrooms and heat just to a simmer.
Plate the toasts and pour the mushrooms over the toasts. Garnish with chives if you have them. Serve piping hot.

15 thoughts on “entertaining friends (buttery wild mushroom toasts)”

  1. Jerry and Catherine are my first cousins! Lucky me’n. We even bought a vacation condo on a lake 17 miles away to be closer to them and other family. Indiana is far away. Have had many, many happy times with them these past 3 years. She is truly amazing- can throw together a feast for 20+ in a few hours. Maybe I could handle 4 with lots of Fresh Market assistance ( or Stew Leonards in CT)!

  2. Hey, Yesterday we got some great mushrooms at the farmers market.
    Our shroom guy was closing his stall and passed on a HUGE basket for the price of a small one. Nice for us!!
    Cooking up a Sunday supper of roasted chicken and roasted root veggies. Preceeded by BUTTERY MUSHROOM TOASTS.
    I’ll be sure to tell my guests the recipe belongs to MRS WHEELBARROW.
    hugs to mr chub-chubs.
    xcds

    xcds

  3. That looks like such a great couple of days of feasting. Wild mushrooms on toast are one of my favourite indulgences- I had the best version I’ve ever at Fergus Henderson’s place St John in London last year. Amazing. Can’t be shy about butter though 🙂

  4. The thing about a writer is that if they can reign you in and make you a participant as you read, well, then they have achieved what they have set out to do. I love your writing here, Cathy, I truly felt transported into your weekend of food and drink and friendship. Lovely. xo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *