The Chef’s Take: Mushrooms a la Plancha from Joel Hough at il Buco
At il Buco, the beloved Italian restaurant in New York City's East Village, Chef Joel Hough spans the Mediterranean for inspiration. “I like to play around with Spanish and Moorish influences and the flavors of Southern Italy,” he says. This means dishes like quail with pickled dried fruit and pomegranate; spaghetti with olive oil-poached swordfish, Calabrian chiles, capers and parsley; and Bella Bella Farms baby chicken with roasted baby beets, blood orange and mustard greens.
Aside from serving did-your-Nonna-make-this pasta, il Buco is known for its high-quality olive oil, fragrant and green as spring grass, and its homemade breads crafted from organic flour and an extra-long fermentation process. It's bread you must try to believe: soft but firm with an almost nutty taste and a crackling farmhouse crust. (You can thank head baker Kamel Saci the next time you're in.) Drag it through a shallow puddle of olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and you'll have your new favorite meal. But you might want to add a plate of Hough's mushrooms — a riff on the Spanish classic ceptas a la plancha. Hough adds his own fermented garlic sauce to give it a little kick. “Fermented foods are super good for you," he says. “And the flavor is pretty awesome too."
2 pounds mixed cultivated (maitake, oyster, shittake) and wild mushrooms (black trumpet, yellowfoot, hedgehog)
Season the mushrooms with the grapeseed oil, sea salt and black pepper. Heat a large cast iron skillet to high heat and gently wipe out the skillet with a lightly oiled rag. add the mushrooms in a single layer and allow to sear on one side. Stir gently and add to a mixing bowl. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice to the mushrooms and lighlty mix. To plate, take a spoon of the black garlic sauce and erratically make little streaks on the plate. Scatter the mushrooms across the plate, arrange a few leaves of arugula and shave the cheese to finish.
To prepare the garlic sauce, poach approximately 8 large cloves of garlic in 2 cups of milk until soft. Smash to a paste and work in the black garlic paste and season with the balsamic and sea salt.
Andrea Strong is a freelance writer whose work has appeared everywhere from The New York Times to Edible Brooklyn. She's probably best known as the creator of The Strong Buzz, her food blog about New York City restaurants. She lives in Queens with her two kids, her husband and her big appetite.