Q: I am planning to make Susan Spicer's goat cheese croutons with wild mushrooms and Madeira cream from her "Crescent City Cooking." I don't have any Madeira. Is Marsala an acceptable substitute?
--Andrew Maselli, Chicago
A: "Yes," says Spicer, owner of Bayona Restaurant in New Orleans. "I think Marsala would be an excellent substitute. Both are fortified wines with a rich nutty flavor that is delicious with mushrooms."
A richer style of sherry could also work if neither Madeira or Marsala were available, she says.
The true Madeira is made on the eponymous island, which is held by Portugal. Spicer's recipe calls for either a "Sercial" (pronounced "SER-shul"), which is light, dry, and has a flavor profile akin to dry sherry, or "Rainwater" Madeira, which "The New Wine Lover's Companion" describes as "medium dry." True Marsala is made near the city of that name in Sicily, the "Companion" notes, and is made with varying ranges of sweetness.
Both Madeira and Marsala are fortified – as is sherry – so that means the wine gets a shot of brandy or some other alcohol to bolster its overall alcohol content.
Spicer's recipe from her cookbook may be found below.
Goat cheese croutons with wild mushrooms and Madeira cream
Prep: 30 minutes
Makes: Four servings
A recipe from "Crescent City Cooking" by Susan Spicer with Paula Disbrowe.
For the goat cheese croutons:
1/4 cup fresh goat cheese, softened to room temperature
1 tablespoon butter, softened
4 slices 7-grain (or any whole-grain) bread
For the Madeira cream:
2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
1 cup Madeira (such as Rainwater or Sercial)
1 cup heavy cream
For the mushrooms:
1/2 pound wild mushrooms (preferably a mix of oyster mushrooms, shiitakes, and/or chanterelles)
2 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons snipped fresh chives, plus extra for garnish
1.Make the goat cheese croutons. In a small bowl, use a fork to combine the goat cheese and butter. Lightly toast the bread. Spread equal portions of the goat cheese mixture on the toast. Trim the crusts and cut the squares in half. (The toasts will have a cleaner edge if you trim the crusts after spreading on the goat cheese.) Set aside.
2.Make the Madeira cream. In a small saucepan, simmer the shallots in Madeira until the liquid is reduced to ¼ cup. Add the cream, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 5-10 minutes, until the cream thickens slightly. Set aside.
3.Remove the tough stems from the mushrooms and discard. Slice or tear the mushrooms into pieces. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is bubbling but not browned, add the mushrooms and cook until they're golden brown and crispy, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and Madeira cream. Turn the heat to high and boil for about 2 minutes, until the mushrooms have absorbed most of the cream. Season with salt and pepper and fold in the 2 teaspoons chives.
4.Broil the goat cheese croutons until bubbly and lightly browned. Arrange the croutons on plates and spoon the mushroom mixture over them. Garnish with chives.
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