Tuesday, December 15, 2009

First Course

I had intended to blog about yesterday’s Meatless Monday dinner, but frankly wasn’t all that enthused about it. This recipe for Chili-Cheese Black Bean Enchiladas has been in my Cooking Light Saved Recipes for forever. I’ve planned to serve it several times but had never made it before last night. It didn’t take long for DH and I to put it together, along with some sweet potato fries and a guacamole salad. DH and W cleaned their plates, but B and I were not inspired – a definite 3 out of 5 stars.

So I decided instead to blog about a recipe that I love and have not had in a while: Susan Spicer’s Goat Cheese Croutons with Wild Mushrooms in Madeira Cream. Susan Spicer is the chef and owner of Bayona, a fabulous restaurant in the New Orleans’ French Quarter. My mom and I have been throwing around ideas for Christmas dinner. We know we are going to have beef tenderloin, but have not yet decided how to cook it. Likely other dishes include potatoes au gratin, the green beans with warm bacon vinaigrette that we had at Thanksgiving, and a butternut squash puree that my sister and BIL served at my mom’s birthday dinner. I love a stand-out first course like Thanksgiving’s onion tart and celery and apple salad. My mom is not so into that, so I’ve been mulling over some possibilities. Tonight, I was perusing recipes on the Food Network website when I saw something that reminded me of what I think of as Bayona’s mushroom toasts. A perfect first course for Christmas dinner...

Bayona is one of my favorite restaurants in the Quarter. I have various fond (and one not so fond) memories of meals there. The first time I ate there was in the early 90s with my dad. He was attending a US Sailing meeting in New Orleans and I was in graduate school at LSU. We wandered into Bayona without a reservation. They couldn’t seat us right then, but encouraged us to come back a little later. We had a great meal and closed down the restaurant. When DH and I started dating a few years later, Bayona was our special occasion go-to place. At one of our first dinners there, I ordered the Goat Cheese Croutons with Wild Mushrooms in Madeira Cream and was overcome. Shortly thereafter, DH discovered that the wife of one of his sailing buddies was the office manager for the restaurant. Janie was able to get a copy of the recipe for us and we made it for the next holiday meal at my mom’s.

I went looking for that old copy of the recipe tonight and couldn’t find it. Fortunately, it is published in the Susan Spicer cookbook my sister gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago, Crescent City Cooking. And, I also found it online in a review of the cookbook so I am not violating any copyright by posting it here:

Goat Cheese Croutons with Wild Mushrooms in Madeira Cream

Makes 4 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes

To achieve the best flavor and texture, it's essential to sauté the mushrooms in a very hot pan, so they will be nicely browned and crispy.

Goat Cheese Croutons

1/4 cup fresh goat cheese, softened to room temperature
1 tablespoon butter, softened
4 slices 7-Grain (or any whole-grain) bread

In a small bowl, use a fork to combine the goat cheese and butter. Lightly toast the bread. Spread equal portions of the goat cheese mixture on the toast. Trim the crusts and cut the squares in half. (The toasts will have a cleaner edge if you trim the crusts after spreading on the goat cheese.) Set aside.

Madeira Cream

2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
1 cup Madeira (such as Rainwater or Sercial)
1 cup heavy cream

In a small saucepan, simmer the shallots in Madeira until the liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup. Add the cream, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 5-10 minutes, until the cream thickens slightly. Set aside.

Wild Mushrooms

1/2 pound wild mushrooms (preferably a mix of oyster mushrooms, shiitakes, and/or chanterelles)
2 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, minced
Madeira Cream
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons snipped fresh chives, plus extra for garnish

Goat Cheese Croutons

Turn on the broiler. Remove the tough stems from the mushrooms and discard. Slice or tear the mushrooms into pieces. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is bubbling but not browned, add the mushrooms and cook until they're golden brown and crispy, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and Madeira Cream. Turn the heat to high and boil for about 2 minutes, until the mushrooms have absorbed most of the cream. Season with salt and pepper and fold in the 2 teaspoons chives.

Broil the Goat Cheese Croutons until bubbly and lightly browned. Arrange the croutons on plates and spoon the mushroom mixture over them. Garnish with chives.


Guinnah said...

these mushrooms sound amazing. I'm trying to plan our annual Christmas eve-eve dinner we have with my best friend. I'm hosting this year and am thinking these mushrooms might be a nice starter. YUM!

Lynn said...

I was talking to a friend at a party last night -- she had been to Bayonna for lunch that day and had had the mushrooms! I am looking forward to having it tomorrow.