Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season! P and I flew back to California to spend the holidays with our loved ones, and caught up on some much-needed family time. On our last night in California, my mom-in-law had my side of the family over for some appetizers and cocktails before heading out to dinner. There was an assortment of organic mushrooms (maitake, which is also known as “Hen of the Woods,” King, and beech) in her fridge, so I made a simple (but popular!) appetizer out of it. After nosing around in the kitchen, I found some Sel de Guerande, a grey sea salt from France. It was something my sis-in-law procured on her recent trip to Europe, and I quickly jumped on the opportunity to use it. The taste was not too salty and had an interesting, light mineral flavor to it. You can use regular sea salt too – add a little at a time to taste.
This dish is full of umami – that fifth flavor dimension, describing something beyond salty, sweet, bitter, or sour. Umami is a Japanese word that describes the savory taste you get when you’re eating foods that contain glutamate (an amino acid) and ribonucleotides. You’ll find this flavor in aged cheeses, meats, fish sauce, soy sauce, mushrooms, and other foods that are rich in glutamates, like ripened tomatoes. MSG (monosodium glutamate) also imparts umami. Since this appetizer is chock-full of mushrooms, you’ll get a whole lot of umami flavor in the broth that forms out of the moisture released from the mushrooms, combined with the richness of the butter and olive oil. I got some rave reviews from my mom, aunt, and my MIL’s friends at the party, so I think it’s safe to say that you won’t go wrong with this dish.
From top to bottom: Sliced King mushrooms, Maitake mushrooms, and Beech mushrooms on the bottom row
Sel de Guerande
Ultimate Umami Mushroom Saute
serves about 8-10 as an appetizer; serve with small toasts or crackers
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
3.5 ounces maitake (Hen of the Woods) mushrooms
3/4 lb King mushrooms (also called King oyster or trumpet), sliced into 1/4″ slices
3.5 ounces Beech mushrooms
1 tsp grey sea salt (or regular white sea salt)
Freshly cracked white pepper
1/3 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter and olive oil, stirring for 1 minute, until the butter dissolves and begins to bubble. Add the garlic and turn down the heat to medium. Saute for about 2 minutes, until garlic and butter turn golden brown. Add all the mushrooms, salt, and pepper, stirring until ingredients are well-combined.
2. Cover the pan for about 5 minutes, until the King mushrooms are tender. Stir in the parsley, and transfer the mushrooms and the broth to a serving bowl; serve with toasted bread or crackers.