Mushroom and Crushed Egg Tapas (Tapas de Setas con Huevo)
If you were in Italy, you'd call these bruschetta di funghi. In the English speaking world, it's just plain old mushrooms on toast. So why am I calling it by the Spanish tapas de setas? I suppose it's got to do with its simplicity and its reliance on really really good olive oil, two trademarks of excellent tapas.
Though the word has come to encompass a wide variety of small Spanish-themed plates and bar snacks, it originally referred to slices of bread topped with simple toppings. In a bid for customers, Spanish sherry bars would try and out-top each other to get clients to come through their doors. Though these days the food has taken on a life of its own—in most cases eclipsing, or at least standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the drinks—there are still many parts of Spain in which tapas bars serve only one or two carefully crafted house specialties.
A couple years back, my wife and I walked across 100 kilometers' worth of the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrim's trail that traverses Northern Spain and ends at Santiago de Compostela. Ok, she walked. I struggled, dragged, and moped my way across, dealing with poorly-refrigerated-sausage-induced shivers, shoes that hadn't been replaced since freshman year of college, and curling up in a kiddie-sized sleeping bag at night, complete with a smiling giraffe emblazoned across the front (It was the only sleeping bag available at the only store that was open when we started our journey).
But redemption came in the form of food in the tapas-haven of Logroño. We hopped from bar to bar, enjoying a glass of Rioja with a shrimp-stuffed mushroom here, or an as-rich-as-bacon cube of richly marbled Iberico pork shoulder grilled over live coals there. Crispy grilled pig snouts were the specialty of one house, while the one nextdoor was known for its patatas bravas—fried potatoes in a spicy sauce with garlicky alli-oli.
It's a fine way to spend a night and a wonderful town to visit, but all we were left with when we left was some good taste memories, a minor stomachache (remnants of that poorly refrigerated sausage), and a bottle of extremely bright and grassy olive oil from extremadura. These days, both the olive oil and stomache are long gone (though I had flashbacks to the latter from a recently ingested IKEA hot dog), but I still love really simple, really tasty tapas.
This dish—sauteed mushrooms flavored with a bit of thyme, garlic, and shallots on top of grilled bread with some crushed hard boiled egg—is nothing special on paper, but it's quick, easy, and insanely delicious. It also relies wholly on the quality of your mushrooms and olive oil. Get the fanciest mushrooms you can from the specialty grocer, and break out your heavy-duty, extra-strength, bright, green and grassy olive oil for this one.
A side of sherry should help things out too.
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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.