|Mushrooms alla Francese|
Recipe Type: Side Dish
Janet Ross, an accomplished Englishwoman of the Victorian and Edwardian era, wrote what is probably the first cookbook in English largely devoted to vegetable cookery. Called Leaves from Our Tuscan Kitchen, she predated Frances Mayes by 100 years and created a mini agricultural and intellectual paradise at her villa near Florence. During her life she was a well-known writer and translator, but now she is probably best known for her cookery book. It is one of my favorite cookbooks, and in the original editions largely unavailable except from specialty booksellers. Her great-great-nephew Michael Waterfield has recently updated and reissued the book (http://www.ecookbooks.com/p-24288-leaves-from-our-tuscan-kitchen.aspx). Here I present recipes from the original, since I have a copy of the second edition (published 1900). The recipes were those of Mrs. Ross’s cook, Giuseppe Volpi, who had been trained in formal French cookery but also incorporated regional specialties and techniques into his repertoire. The following two recipes are thus oddly both Tuscan and French in a very pleasing way. And they are absolutely delicious as well. I have changed the wording a bit to make better sense to modern-day cooks. Gastronomy note: a classic French mushroom dish is mushrooms cooked in butter (and sometimes cream) with parsley. This recipe uses olive oil in place of the butter and then places the mushrooms on bread, a classic Tuscan serving method. Bread is indeed the staff of life, and in Tuscany it was the central part of the meal for most people for the last, oh, several millennia.
- 2 pounds button mushrooms
- Olive oil
- A good handful of chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Slices of bread
- Wash or wipe two pounds of button mushrooms, cut them in half, and soak in olive oil, salt and pepper (the oil should barely cover the mushrooms) for about an hour.
- Put new olive oil into a frying pan and gently fry the mushrooms until they are cooked to your taste.
- Add a handful of finely chopped parsley and cook for a few more minutes.
- Serve on bread that has been toasted in the oven after being drizzled with olive oil.