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 pound mixed mushrooms of your choice, sliced (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 sliced 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.