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Creamed Mushroom Bruschetta, with Caramelized Onions

Let’s talk about labels for a second. What does the word “foodie” mean to you?

Someone who likes Shake Shack over McDonald’s, or hamburgers from the local greasy spoon joint in your neighborhood over White Castle, is that person a “foodie”?

Someone who knows all about hot dogs from the dirty water food carts in New York City, to sausage sandwiches sold at Nathan’s Famous or bratwursts at street corner vendors in Milwaukee, is he a “foodie”?

Someone who thinks Paula Deen’s creations are the Goddess’ gift to mankind, is she a “foodie”?

The problem with labels, in my opinion, is that depending on whomever it is who answers, any of those people could be “foodies” or, they could be people who just like to eat but don’t see themselves as “foodies”. For some folks, “foodie” is a pejorative term. Personally speaking, I’m not one of those people, and while I don’t mind someone calling me a foodie, I don’t think that term applies to me.

Is the word ‘foodie’ like the term ‘hipster‘, or is it like ‘pornography’ which is at times undefinable but as a certain U.S. Supreme Court Justice once said, something you know when you see it?

And while we’re talking about labels, here’s another thing to chew on:

Louisiana Creole cuisine is “fusion” — it’s French-Spanish-Portuguese-Amerindian-African cuisine. Traditional Mexican is “fusion” — it’s Lebanese-German-Spanish-Amerindian-Chinese cuisine. “Fusion” doesn’t just mean a modern mish-mash of cultures like Korean-Mexican or French-Japanese. It’s been around since humans have traveled to other parts of the globe and back. “Fusion food” is a phrase that people these days use to describe a food trend where an apple and an orange got together for some sexy funtime and out popped a baby.

Ancient Roman cuisine was “fusion”. Venetian cuisine during the Renaissance was “fusion”. Traditional American cuisine is fusion — BBQ, baked beans, fried chicken, meatloaf. Yes, those are fusion — because those dishes sure didn’t arise out of one single culture of their own accord.

If you think modern usage applies, technically, fusion food has been around since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until chefs like Wolfgang Puck came onto the scene that fusion as a culinary concept really took off.

So the next time you encounter a label, will you do me a favor please? Don’t go in with preconceived notions, and keep an open mind. You may be surprised by what you’ll learn.

Overhead shot

Creamed mushroom bruschetta, with caramelized onions

Creamed Mushroom Bruschetta, with Caramelized Onions

Adapted from this recipe, courtesy of Chef Chris Pandel, from Balena Chicago.

You can use other types of mushrooms in addition to the ones mentioned below. In the pic above, there are also 2 tablespoons sliced chanterelle mushrooms. I had some scraps that I needed to cook before they turned.

For the caramelized onions:

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sea salt salt, or to taste
1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine

For the creamed mushrooms:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1 pound best-quality common mushrooms, ideally cremini or baby bella, cleaned and sliced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper, to taste
1 small shallot, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 cup heavy cream

For the bruschetta:

4 pieces Italian bread, sliced lengthwise
Caramelized onions (see above)
Creamed mushrooms (see above)
minced chives

For the caramelized onions:

Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the olive oil. Once the oil shimmers, add the onions and salt. Do not stir immediately. Wait 1 minute, then begin to stir frequently over high heat for 5 minutes, or until the onions have released liquid and started to become translucent.


Turn the heat down to medium and add Marsala. Cook, stirring often, for what will seem like an eternity, until the onions are fully melted and dark brown, approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

Caramelized onions

For the creamed mushrooms:

Heat a heavy-bottomed pan with high sides over high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the olive oil. Once the oil shimmers, add butter. When butter foams, add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are golden brown, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.


Reduce heat to medium low and, using a wooden spoon, create a well in the middle of the mushrooms. Add thyme, salt, black pepper and shallots; sweat until shallots have cooked through and become translucent, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.

Return heat to high and add sherry vinegar to deglaze pan, then add cream and bring to a low boil.

Check for seasoning. Mushrooms can be reserved until needed, then reheated over a medium flame. Add a splash of extra cream to loosen, if needed.

For the bruschetta:

Grill or toast bread to a light char. Spread 2 tablespoons caramelized onions over each piece of toast, followed by approximately 1/4 cup of creamed mushrooms. Garnish with minced chives. Serve immediately.

This recipe has been sized for two people. Allow two bruschetta per person.

Time: One hour and 15 minutes, including prep.


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