Morel Mushroom and Goat Cheese Toasts

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You will find Morel Mushroom and Goat Cheese Toasts on page 23 of "Mustards Cookbook," the acclaimed winner of the James Beard Award for the Best Americana Cookbook. Chef Cindy Pawlcyn is well known though out the United States, but can be mostly found at her signature restaurant, Mustards Grill, in Yountville and at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena (CA).

NOTES: Morel mushrooms are smallish, look like cone-shaped sponges, and have honeycomb-like caps that suck up sauces and pan juices wonderfully. They are fairly plentiful in spring, at least in certain areas, such as the Midwest and parts of the Northwest.

Always buy dry, clean-looking morels, and when you get them home, look for hidden insects and shake out any forest debris. Do not wash them, however.

If you can't find morels, you can use other wild mushrooms - porcini in the fall and chanterelles later in the year - or if all else fails, purchase a nice combination of cultivated mushrooms, such as button mushrooms, shiitakes, and portobellos, from the market.

A combination of dried and fresh mushrooms also works well. Figure on one-eighth to one-fourth the weight of the fresh mushrooms when computing the amount of dried mushrooms.


Serves 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced into rounds
4 cups fresh morel mushrooms, quartered lengthwise and carefully cleaned
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
¼ cup Calvados, Madeira, or Cognac
¼ pound fresh goat cheese
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or half-and-half
6 slices rustic country bread, each 1/3-inch thick
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil and 2 teaspoons of the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until they begin to caramelize. Add the morels and sauté, stirring occasionally for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender. Sprinkle to taste with salt and pepper. When the mushrooms start to caramelize and give off their juices, add the thyme and sauté for 1 minute more. Then stir in the Calvados and the remaining 2 teaspoons butter and keep warm over low heat until you are ready to serve.

In a bowl, mix the goat cheese together with the whipping cream to make it spreadable. Toast or grill the read, smear each slice with a nice layer of the creamy goat cheese and place on serving plates. Pour the mushroom sauce over, sprinkle with parsley, and serve at once.

From Mustards Cookbook," the acclaimed winner of the James Beard Award for the Best Americana Cookbook. Chef Cindy Pawlcyn.

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