If there was a single restaurant in Los Angeles that I could choose to be my personal chef (daydream much?), it’d be Gjelina in Venice. The dishes they make — rustic, flavorful, simply prepared and presented — always allow the ingredients to speak for themselves. This mushroom toast is inspired by Gjelina. The knockout combination of chiles, lime, and creme fraiche takes an already superlative pairing — charred bread and crisp, woodsy mushrooms — to a whole other level. It’s the most primitively satisfying thing I’ve prepared in many months.
HEN OF THE WOODS TOAST with FRESNO CHILE, LIME and CREME FRAICHE
for 4-5 generous servings:
1 excellent loaf of rustic bread, sliced diagonally 3/4 -inch thick
extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced in half
1 large fresno chile, finely minced
1 bundle of chives, thinly sliced
1 cup of creme fraiche
2 teaspoons lime zest, plus more for garnish
3-4 clumps of maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms, cleaned and completely dry
fresh juice of 1-2 limes
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Heat a charcoal grill or turn your oven’s broiler on. Generously brush the slices of bread with olive oil, rub the garlic cloves all over the bread, and set this aside. Prepare the chile and chives. Combine the creme fraiche with the lime zest. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a nonstick skillet until almost smoking. Add the mushrooms, breaking the clumps down with your fingers and discarding the very bottom part of the clump. Be careful not to overcrowd, which will cause the mushrooms to release liquid. Saute the mushrooms until they are crisp and golden brown, about 6-8 minutes depending on your stove. Repeat to finish crisping the mushrooms. During your last batch, grill or broil the bread briefly so that it is slightly burnt around the edges. To assemble, spoon some creme fraiche onto the bread. Toss the mushrooms with fresh lime juice, salt, and pepper to taste and spoon the seasoned mushrooms over the bread. Sprinkle the chives, chiles, and lime zest over the top and finish with a drizzle of creme fraiche.