I was recently reminded of this mushroom salad that is so meaty that you can eat it with good bread and call it a meal.
It’s my take on a salad that I had in the south of France in the town of Les Baux de Provence. The one that I had at Restaurant L’Oustau de Baumaniere was made with sauteed local Cepe mushrooms and I fell in love with the simplicity of it. If you aren’t familiar with Cepes, they are the French Porcini mushroom.
When I came home, I re-created a grilled version of the salad. But recently, I have been making it with golden-brown buttery sauteed mushrooms using the King Oyster mushrooms which are as close to Cepes that I can find in the USA. The mushrooms are easy to find if you take the time to seek out an international grocery store. You can also order them to be delivered in most cities by Weee!, the leading Asian and Hispanic e-grocer.
I’ve found that the Korean King Oyster mushrooms sold in these stores are pristine, packaged in a clump of mushrooms that are still attached to each other, and priced at a bargain. I bought 2 [10-ounce packages] of organic mushrooms for $3.99 each. The non-organic version which looked just as fresh was $2.99 a package. If you love and buy exotic mushrooms like I do, you know that this is a find.
Once the mushrooms are cooked, all you need to do is assemble the salad on individual plates. The warm mushrooms wilt the bitter arugula greens and soften the Comte cheese, making a traditional dressing unnecessary. A drizzle of best-quality extra virgin olive oil, coarse sea salt and toasted hazelnuts complete the salad. This is one of those recipes where each part contributes equally to a perfect and simple composed dish. For that reason, you need to make sure that each ingredient is the best quality that you can find.
Warm King Oyster Mushroom Salad
I like this salad best with fresh King Oyster mushrooms, but any of your favorite exotic mushrooms will be delicious. If you can’t find Comte cheese, you can substitute Gruyere.
Grilling Method: Direct/Medium Heat
1 pound whole fresh King Oyster, Cepe, Porcini, Chanterelle, Shitake or favorite mushrooms, cleaned
4 cups arugula, cleaned
¼ cup hazlenuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 ounce comté cheese, sliced with a vegetable peeler
Grains of Paradise or white pepper
Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Fleur de Sel
Build a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill.
If using King Oyster, Cepe or fresh Porcini mushrooms, slice in half or quarters from top to bottom. If using smaller mushrooms, leave whole.
Brush mushrooms with olive oil and season with salt. Place mushrooms directly on the cooking grate and grill for about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until tender and well-marked. Alternatively, you can saute them in a heavy-duty pan with half butter and half olive oil until each side is seared and golden brown.
Divide the arugula on four plates, top immediately with the hot mushrooms. Garnish with nuts and cheese and a drizzle of the best olive oil you have.
Sprinkle with Fleur de Sel or other coarse sea salt and a grind of Grains of Paradise or white pepper just before serving.