Saturday, June 6, 2009

Mushrooms and Beef on Toast

Sorry, no pictures of Amsterdam in digital.

In 1970, I went to Europe alone. I went everywhere and had a great time. I lived in Paris and made trips out from there. I really knew very little about the foods of the countries I was visiting, so it was all an adventure. I loved Croque Monsieur purchased from street vendors in Paris. People had tiny shops with windows on the street. They would just open the windows and the grill for the Croque Monsieur was literally on the windowsill. You would buy the slices through the window. Also in Paris, there were carts selling Hot Dogs. There was a little steel tube protruding from the top of the cart. They would cut the end off a baguette, and slide the tube through the cut end of the bread. Then they would step on a pedal that shot a burst of steam into the bread. This opened the bread up and heated and steamed it at the same time. Then out came a very long, skinny hot dog or some similar sausage. Holding it with tongs by one end, they would dip it into a container of hot mustard, then using the hot dog itself, paint the inside of the bread with the mustard and drop the hot dog inside. That was all and it was all you needed.

The memorable part of the dish I would like to tell you about here, really depends on the beer. I am not talking about cooking with it, but to go with it. I had this with Old Bruin beer. A very dark beer with Orange. I suppose any dark beer would do, but they went together so well, it sticks in my mind despite the thirty nine years that have passed.

I was in Amsterdam. This is one city that anyone would love. Beautiful, canals everywhere, history surrounding you. Kids want to go there because drugs are tolerated and Marajuana and prostitution is commonplace. But it is so much more. Art, Anne Frank house, lovely people and food, both Dutch and Indonesian.

I sat down at a canalside cafe. It was a tiny place with just two windows and a door facing the street and the canal beyond. I ordered something I did not quite understand for the adventure of it.

In a few minutes, out came a bowl with grilled bread smothered with finely shaved steak and mushrooms swimming in a butter sauce. That was all to go with the orange dark beer. I did not even care about mushrooms, but I could not get enough of this.

Trim all the fat from a half pound of tenderloin or other well marbled beef cut. Put into the freezer for about twenty minutes till it has started to firm but is not frozen.

You will need a very large skillet. Cast iron would be a great advantage.

Use any mushrooms you like, but these were probably Criminis. Wipe to clean and slice thinly.

Pour a generous film of olive oil into the preheated pan. Toss in the mushrooms, but do not overcrowd them. Saute at medium high heat. Add one or two minced cloves of garlic, salt and pepper and saute till the mushrooms have dried and browned.

Remove and hold the mushrooms keeping them warm but uncovered.

Reheat the pan to near smoking, then add more oil. Shave the steak as finely as possible and toss into the hot pan. (By this time it should have warmed to near room temperature as you shave it.) Saute the beef till the edges have browned and the pink has disappeared. Again, do not overcrowd the pan. It must brown not boil. Add salt and pepper(Thyme or a mix of mint and oregano, is a good addition if you like, but this had none.

Return the mushrooms to the pan and when reheated, add half a stick of butter, allowing it to melt in and form a sauce with any pan juices. Add a few drops of lemon juice at the end. Pour this over slices of grilled or toasted, thick sliced, coarse bread.(Add more or less butter as you like.)

Serve topped with chopped herbs of your choice.


Top with a mild cheese.

Caramelize onions along with the mushrooms.

Add a pinch of cayenne or pepper flakes.

Splash brandy or sherry in before the butter, and flame.

Split an entire loaf of peasant bread. Rye, Italian, French or whatever appeals to you would work. Run the open sides under the broiler then pour the mushroom and beef mixture over the bread, juices and all. Then mound up a layer of lightly dressed spring greens or arugula on top and close up the sandwich so the heat of the filling on both sides wilts the greens just slightly. Cut into large chunks to serve with or without a mild cheese or Parmesan.

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