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Mushroom Toasts with Rocchetta

Mushroom Toasts with Rocchetta

One of the telltale signs that you are eating a surface-ripened cheese is when it tastes mushroomy. That is a standard flavor characteristic and part of what makes this style of cheese unbelievably delicious. In this appetizer, the mushrooms and cheese are such a delectable duo that you might decide to turn this into a main course instead of a starter.

Although this recipe calls for the Italian cheese Rocchetta, you can choose from a number of different surface-ripened cheeses. You just want a cheese that will soften on contact with the hot mushrooms and stand up to their earthy flavors. Borrowing from the soft-ripened category of cheeses and choosing Camembert will meet with equal success.

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided, at room temperature
12 regular slices of rectangular-shaped sourdough bread, approximately 4 inches wide and 1/4-inch thick crusts removed (or use slices from the widest part of a round loaf and cut the largest pieces in half crosswise)
1 small shallot, minced
1 1/2 pounds assorted mushrooms (or use white or brown mushrooms only if those are easier for you to find), stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup (2 ounces) heavy cream
1 half-wheel of Rocchetta, about 4.5 ounces (or use La Tur, Perail, St. Andre or any double- or triple-crème brie, rind removed), cut into 6 equal-size pieces
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Place an oven rack 6 inches below the heating element and preheat the broiler.

Put the bread slices on a baking sheet. Place in the broiler and toast until golden brown, about 45 seconds. Watch carefully to make sure the bread doesn't burn.

Turn the slices and spread with half (2 tablespoons) of the butter. Put back in the broiler and cook until the bread has a few little brown spots from the butter and the bread has turned a half-shade darker, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Do not toast too much or it becomes difficult to eat in this dish. Set aside.

In a large sauté pan, melt the remaining butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and have released most but not all of their juices, about 10 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Turn the heat to high and add the vinegar. Cook for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium, add the cream, and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly and the mushroom mixture looks creamy but not soupy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. (Note: You can make the mushrooms up to 2 hours ahead. Cover and keep at room temperature. Reheat to piping hot before assembling).

To assemble, place the slices of bread buttered side up on individual serving plates. Distribute the mushrooms on top of the bread. Place the cheese on top of the mushroom toasts, sprinkle with parsley, and serve right away.

Serves 6