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Morels on toast

This is one of the best starters or lunch dishes in any cuisine. Mushrooms on toast make appearances on lots of traditional, but knowing, British restaurant menus; it was the first dish the Editor tasted at Fergus Henderson's late, lamented French House Dining Room in Soho. He used seasonal fresh wild mushrooms; you can make this version any time.

Mushrooms- 1 oz dried morels and hot water to cover them

- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

- about ½ cup minced shallots

- heaped ¼ teaspoon dried thyme

- 6 oz dry (and inexpensive rainwater blend is fine)Madiera or Amontillado sherry

- 1 cup heavy cream

- ½ teaspoon mushroom ketchup (or substitute Worcestershire)

- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

- 1 Tablespoon minced chives or scallions

- 1 Tablespoon minced fresh herbs (parsley, chervil or savory)

- 4 pieces of toast

  1. Soak the morels in the water until tender (20-40 minutes).
  2. Gently squeeze the liquid from the morels--you do not want to break them--then strain the soaking liquid to remove any grit.
  3. Reduce the liquid to about 2 Tablespoons.
  4. Melt the butter over medium low heat and cook the shallots until they soften and just begin to color.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and add the morels. Stir fry the mixture for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the cream and ketchup and let the sauce thicken.
  7. Stir the lemon juice, chives or scallions and herbs into the creamed mushrooms, reduce the heat to low and cook for a few more seconds.
  8. Serve the morels on the toast.

Notes: The obvious drink with this is the fortified wine you used to cook it, or a drier fino sherry, but beer--a pale ale, IPA or porter--is equally good.

- We never knew how morels got their smokey flavor. Apparently, they grow only on forest floors that have suffered fires. Apocryphal? Readers are invited to instruct us.