This is a flavor combination that Andy has always liked—wild mushrooms and balsamic vinegar. It’s the way he used to prepare them at Stars in San Francisco, where they also used goat cheese as a counterpoint. At Barcelona, our original recipe used a piece of French goat cheese, but now we use an garlicky herbed goat cheese mixture, which melts much better and more evenly. This dish perks up quickly in the microwave, so it’s a great last-minute piece of a meal.–Sasa Mahr-Batuz and Andy Pforzheimer
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and set on medium speed, mix together the goat cheese, cream cheese, thyme, parsley, rosemary, chives, and garlic for about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper and beat for 2 to 3 minutes longer or very well blended.
Spread a sheet of plastic wrap about 12 inches long on a work surface. Spread about half of the herbed cheese along the bottom third of the plastic wrap, leaving 1 inch on each end. Roll the plastic wrap around the cheese to make a log approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Twist the clean ends of the plastic wrap closed. Repeat with the rest of the cheese to make another log. Refrigerate the logs for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.
Prepare the wild mushrooms
In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over high heat. Add a third of each of the wild mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the mushrooms develop a golden crust. At this point, lift the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Add more oil and cook the next batch of mushrooms. Repeat with the rest of the mushrooms and oil.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the shallots to the pan. Return the mushrooms to the pan and cook for about 7 minutes or until the shallots are translucent.
Add the stock, vinegar, and thyme leaves, increase the heat to high, and simmer rapidly for 9 to 10 minutes, or until the liquid reduces to about 1/2 cup. The mushrooms should be juicy but without much extra sauce.
Remove the cheese logs from the refrigerator and slice into rounds about 3/4 inch thick. (This is very easy to do with dental floss.) Reserve any extra for another use.
Put about 1 cup of the wild mushroom mixture into each of 4 microwave-safe serving bowls. Top each serving with 1 or 2 rounds of herbed cheese. Microwave for about 1 minute, or until the cheese softens and the mushrooms are piping hot. Serve immediately.
This works as an appetizer or even a nice tapas-style dish, and it’s easily thrown together. The cream cheese mellows out the goat cheese, the vinegar in the mushrooms add a nice vibrant note, and the veal stock makes the flavor nice and silky. It’s also very adaptable—you could really use any meaty mushrooms if you can’t find shitake, oyster, AND cremini. Also, you end up with the equivalent of (almost) an extra log of herbed cheese, but if you throw it in the freezer, it’ll be ready to use the next time you want to whip up the wild mushrooms. For a cocktail party, I’d top slices of baguette with the mushrooms and cheese, broil quickly, then set it all out.