Champignon de Paris Salad

Ever tried a ‘champignon de Paris‘? The real ones– cultivated in abundance and almost exclusively at one time in the catacombs of Paris? A champignon de Paris, or a Paris mushroom, the real ones, have become a bit of a gastronomic legend. To most, it is nothing but a plain ol’ white button mushroom, but there is a big difference. Marinated raw they taste fresh with a toothsome, velvety texture, and they greedily guzzle up flavour. Parisians know that sometimes a few high-quality simple ingredients make for a spectacular dish. This salad, with only 5 ingredients, is light but meaty and earthy at the same time, accented with bright lemon and parsley. The key to this dish is really, really good ingredients. The splurge is worth it.

Ingredients

There are no exact amounts for this recipe as some mushrooms will absorb more oil and some lemons will have different amounts of juice. Trust your instincts, you really can’t make this wrong with the right ingredients.

  1. White button mushrooms – Even if the box has ‘Champignon de Paris’ written on the supermarket label, chances are, they weren’t ‘made in Paris’. Not even close. So find the best looking. freshest domestic, organic if possible, mushrooms you can find.
  2. 2-3 lemons – if you can find them, try Meyer lemons, especially if you are adverse to the tartness of a traditional lemon, these are milder. If you like tart, go with a standard lemon. DO NOT use anything in a bottle!
  3. Olive oil – This is the time to splurge – search for a high-quality cold pressed oil that is a beautiful green, fruity up front and peppery on the finish. Mass produced grocery brands will dull the dish.
  4. Flake salt – DO NOT use table salt, this calls for a beautiful large flake salt, also known as finishing salt. The taste is superior and you want the crunch of the flake as a counterpoint to the velvety mushroom. (Falksalt is a good choice)
  5. Parsley – choose carefully, deep green stems and leaves indicate an inferior, tough herb which will ruin the texture of the dish. It should be light green and soft. If you are not a parsley fan, try arugula for a peppery note. A handful enough, you want to taste the mushrooms.

Method

  1. Take out the base of the mushrooms, then lift off the peel from the underside. Take a small sharp knife, take a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch bit of mushroom peel, and slowly lift off the peel, moving towards the centre of the dome of the mushroom. Continue until all of the peel is off all of the mushrooms. (Parisians always remove the skin the allow for better absorption of flavours and better presentation)
  2. Slice each mushroom into thin slices, and put them in a wide, flattish bowl.
  3. Juice the lemon, and pour the juice over the mushroom slices. Drizzle a glug or two of oil over the slices. Sprinkle salt over the mushrooms.
  4. Gently combine and make sure the mushroom slices don’t stick together. You want lemon juice and salt on each slice.
  5. Refrigerate this mix for several hours. You will see that the mushrooms have given off some of their own juice. Gently toss the slices so that the lemon/mushroom juice is well distributed. 
  6. Let come to room temperature and serve with a ramekin of flake salt so guests can add to taste.

Try this recipe out with a crisp, cold Pilsner.