There was a period in my life (a 10 year period) when I didn’t eat beef. Or pork. I didn’t call myself ‘vegetarian’ because a lot of people get agitated and on-their-high-horsey when they learn that you are ‘vegetarian’ and eating chicken. So….I just elected to not eat beef+pork. There were reasons, which I’ll save for another time. Not now….because right now, I want to talk about mushrooms.
Big, meaty mushrooms. Portobello mushrooms, to be exact. Portobello mushrooms are the steak of the vegetarian diet. They are hefty, they hold up well on the grill, and if you can stuff it and feed it to an omnivore for dinner with no complaints, that’s some kind of fungi. Those years of no beef+pork came at the same time that I started to eat mushrooms. I didn’t love them when I was young, and I still gag at the thought of eating a raw mushroom on a veggie platter (blech.) but cooked? Heavenly. As an effort to cook more healthfully this new year, I am trying to start cooking more vegetarian dinners. Vegetarian dinners that appeal to the meatetarian in my house will be a challenge, so I started off easy. You can’t go wrong with Portobellos.
I learned about “Duxelle” in my first term cooking class while in Culinary School. A french type of stuffing, mushroom duxelle is a thick ‘paste’ of chopped mushrooms, shallots, and fresh herbs, all sauteed in butter. It is traditionally used as the filling that holds the pastry to the beef on a Beef Wellington, and it’s also often used to top crostinis. For a weeknight dinner, I just used the Duxelle to stuff the inside of a portobello. I fed it to my every-meal-must-have-meat fiance, and there were no complaints. He even went in for seconds.
(for true duxelle, it would need to be diced a lot smaller than this. Because I wanted chunks of mushrooms you can grab with a fork, they were left bigger.)
Baked in a hot oven, drizzled with olive oil and a bit of freshly grated parmesan.
Yield: 2 servings (main course)
Portobello mushrooms 4
Butter 2 TBSP
Shallots 3 TBSP
Garlic 2 cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh herbs (parsely, thyme, oregano – any combination) 2 tsp, chopped
Fresh parmesan, grated 1 TBSP
Olive oil 2-3 tsp
(the beauty of this recipe is that you really truly don’t need to measure anything. I just gave these amounts as a guideline. You can also top the mushrooms with buttered breadcrumbs instead of parmesan. Or, go crazy and use both. I dare you.)
1. Wipe mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel. Scoop the centre gills out of the mushrooms, along with a bit of the ‘meat’. Chop finely.
2. Pick the stems out of the herbs – chop finely. Set aside.
2. Finely dice the shallots and the onion. Heat a large frying pan to medium heat, add the butter. Sweat the shallots until they are translucent, and then add the garlic. Let cook for 1-2 min, until fragrant.
3. Add the chopped mushroom centres, and the fresh herbs. Cook for a few minutes until all the liquid has cooked out of the mushrooms and they are starting to come together into a more solid ‘stuffing’ texture. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Place the mushroom ‘shells’ on a baking sheet. Fill loosely with the mushroom filling (divide equally among the mushrooms).
5. Give the outside visible mushroom a drizzle with olive oil.
Bake at 350F for 20min or so, until the mushrooms are fairly soft and the cheese is melted.
We had a warm quinoa salad with lemon vinaigrette, arugula and pomegranate seeds on the side, and it was delicious. Not a very beautiful plate to the eye, but it tasted good, it was healthy, and the happy cows in the fields lived for one more day.