I had it built up in my head that taking B3 out to an actual, sit-down, non-Jack-in-the-Box-drive-through meal was going to be an endeavor that involved at least one meltdown and/or leaving before the food actually came. But while our friends were here we ended up going out to eat not one, not two, but three nice, awesome, meltdown-free times. Three! And sight-seeing! Luke either slept or stared at everything. In retrospect, I’m not sure if he was being a good baby or just freaked out by all the hubbub (and we had a very tired bub on our hands later that evening) but it was a revelation anyway.
These little toasts were a treat we had at the third of our successful meals out, at a little family- and pup-friendly brunch spot near the beach. The world hardly needs another recipe for avocado toast, or even mushroom and avocado toast; while I might otherwise be sheepish about adding another one to the pile, though, this recipe is so good that I can’t be. The toast was packed with so many other goodies that I hardly recognized it as its ubiquitous namesake — golden, crunchy toast with a swipe of creamy ricotta, followed by crimson chilies, a grassy olive oil and plenty of sea salt, a tangle of sweet caramelized onions and a confetti of savory roasted mushrooms. I was trying to figure out how to make it at home before we got the check.
Reconstructing the toast was a bit of a trial-and-error — was there some kind of purée in that olive oil, and what chilies were those? — but layer after layer, this little at-home version emerged. The way the restaurant served these, the avocado was the cherry on top, a green wedge perched precariously on top of all the other goodness, but it promptly fell off for every one of us as we tried (and failed) to eat it daintily, so here the avocado is on the bottom with the ricotta. They add the creaminess that you’d expect and want from a breakfast toast; the caramelized onions give it the sweetness that I’m always looking for in every savory dish in my meal, and the crowning glory are the roasted mushrooms, which are meaty and rich and addictive in the best way. The garlic chili olive oil, a guesstimate of the purée in their olive oil drizzle and a spin-off of the garlic confit by the indomitable Gjelina, tops it all off with a subtle heat and an intense, fragrant punch of flavor.
This isn’t the quickest to get together, but each single component tasted so good I couldn’t take it out or simplify it; the good news is the mushrooms, onions, and olive oil can all be made well-ahead, so that the only thing you need to do at brunch is put it together and in your mouth. It’s good enough to make brunch at home the only necessary option, even if I now know that brunch anywhere (or, you know, anywhere that is baby-friendly, with easy parking, and not a long wait …) is also one.
Inspired by Ashland Hill. The components take a little while to get together, but make them all ahead of time and keep them separate in the fridge, and you have yourself a decadent breakfast for a week in a row, or an easy brunch for friends to put together in the morning.
- For the caramelized onions:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups thinly sliced onion (about 1 large onion)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (optional)
- For the mushrooms:
- 4 cups warm water
- 2 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 lb mixed mushrooms of your choice (I used a combination of shiitake, crimini, and oyster because they were most readily accessible, but if you can find them, nameko, hen of the woods, chanterelle, porcini, etc. would be wonderful)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh thyme or oregano
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- For the garlic chili olive oil:
- ⅓ cup peeled garlic cloves
- ⅔ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme or oregano
- 2 teaspoons crushed red chili pepper (or more, for more heat)
- For the rest:
- 6-8 slices crusty sourdough or other rustic bread, toasted
- ½ cup whole milk ricotta, homemade or storebought
- 1 large avocado, seed and skin removed, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup pickled jalapenos
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh oregano or thyme, for garnish
- The day before or well ahead, make the garlic chili olive oil: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine garlic cloves, olive oil, oregano or thyme, and red chili pepper in a small cocotte or other oven-safe bowl. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour, or until garlic cloves are soft. Let cool completely, then transfer to a food processor and purée. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use; it keeps well, for at least a week or more.
- For the caramelized onions: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and stir just until evenly coated. Let the onions cook gently in a single layer for about 45-50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until they turn brown, jammy, and sweet. In the last few minutes of cooking, stir together the balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons water and drizzle over the onions. Stir to combine, then remove from heat and set aside.
- For the mushrooms: While the onions are caramelizing, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Stir together the water and salt until dissolved. Add the mushrooms and let sit for 10 minutes to quickly brine them. Drain and pat dry, then spread evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over the mushrooms, then toss until evenly coated. Sprinkle the oregano or thyme over the mushrooms. Bake at 450 for 20-30 minutes, or until mushrooms significantly shrink and turn a darker brown. Meanwhile, melt the butter and garlic together. Add the garlic butter to the mushrooms and return to the oven for another 10 minutes, until mushrooms are dark brown and fragrant. Set aside.
- To assemble: Spread each slice of toast with about a tablespoon of ricotta, followed by a few slices of avocado. Top with caramelized onions, mushrooms, pickled jalapeno, and a healthy drizzle of the garlic chili olive oil. Finish with a generous sprinkling of sea salt and ground black pepper, and fresh herbs if desired. Enjoy!
The brine-and-roast method for the mushrooms comes from (James Beard finalist!) Cook's Science, by the brilliant folks at Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen -- they call for brining the mushrooms instead of sprinkling salt over them before roasting, because they found that the latter tends to result in uneven seasoning, whereas a brine makes everything nice and evenly flavorful.