March 5, 2018
This is about...
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms---YUM!!
portobello mushroom 6398 use.png
        I HAD NO IDEA THAT MUSHROOMS CAME OUT OF THE DIRT WHEN I WAS A KID. I thought they were some canned things you got at the supermarket. Nowadays, there are lots of varieties to choose from, some domesticated-- like white buttons, and shiitake. And some wild--- like morels and hen of the woods.
        Even though PORTOBELLOS MAY LOOK LIKE THEIR OWN CATEGORY OF MUSHROOM, THEY’RE ACTUALLY NOT. They’re part of the largest family of domesticated mushrooms, the white button. They’re just allowed to hang out in the earth a lot longer-- all grown up into an adult-size. CREMINI’S, TOO, ARE THOSE SAME BUTTONS, their growing time midway between the small white ones and the largest brown ones.
        Amazingly, the caps of the portobellos can spread out as big as 6 to 8 inches in diameter. THEY HAVE LARGE BLACK GILLS THAT NEED TO BE REMOVED AS THEY ARE MUDDY TASTING if left on. But they’re easily scraped out with a spoon. Being older and more mature, they have a chewier texture than their younger counterparts. And, as a result, A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK OF THEM AS A GREAT MEAT SUBSTITUTE. If you roast or grill them first, their flavor will intensify, which makes them even meatier, and A GREAT CARRIER OF THAT ELUSIVE FIFTH TASTE, UMAMI.
        For this recipe, the big portobellos work really well, serving as a gluten-free veggie crust for whatever fillings you choose. I’VE MADE AN ITALIAN VERSION HERE. The roasted caps are spread with some homemade or a good jarred tomato sauce. Then you add a layer of garlicky sautéed spinach. Top that with a healthy amount of shredded mozzarella, fontina or even goat cheddar, a sprinkle of parm, a pinch of dried oregano and some thinly sliced fresh basil leaves. Finally, finish them off with a drizzle of olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper. This is just one possibility. Basically, they’re a blank canvas. Take that as an invitation to turn these caps into a vessel for anything you like.

LESSONS Learned:
1. Always buy them loose, so that you can pick the freshest ones.
2. Look for plump rounded edges, with gills on the underside of the mushroom that are dry, not wet and mushy.
3. To clean them, first scrape out the gills, over some paper towels for easy clean-up, and then wipe any dirt off with a damp paper towel. Sometimes I just rinse them off, but supposedly they’ll absorb water that way.
4. Use a paring knife to cut off the stems. They’re too woody to eat, but you could freeze them and save for stock.

STUFFED Portobello Mushrooms

4 portobello mushrooms, try to find all the same size
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 oz. baby spinach, rinsed but not dried
pinch salt and nutmeg
¾ cup - 1 cup tomato sauce, jarred or homemade
¾ cup-1 cup grated mozzarella, fontina or mild cheddar
2 Tablespoons grated parmiggiano-reggiano
extra virgin olive oil
extra ground pepper

Prep the mushrooms:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Using a sharp paring knife, slice off the stems, reserving for stock if you like. On some paper towels, use a spoon to scrape the black gills from the undersides of each mushroom. Rinse or wipe with more paper towels to remove any left over gills.
On a large rimmed sheet pan, place all of the mushrooms cap side down. Drizzle each with ½ Tablespoon and brush or use your fingers to coat the tops. Flip them over, cap side up, and drizzle each with another ½ Tablespoon of the oil. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes. When done, pour off any juices that have accumulated inside the caps. Keep the oven on and reduce temperature to 425 degrees F.

Make the spinach while the caps roast:
In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the washed spinach and a pinch of salt and stir constantly until wilted, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg, stir and set aside.

Stuff the mushrooms:
Spread with 3-4 Tablespoons of the tomato sauce inside each cap. Divide the spinach between the mushrooms. Sprinkle with 3-4 Tablespoons of the mozzarella and 1/2 Tablespoon of the parmesan. If using, sprinkle each with a pinch of dried oregano that you’ve rubbed between your fingers first. Then lightly drizzle with olive oil and a grind of black pepper.
Broil the mushrooms until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. If using, place a few thinly torn pieces of fresh basil on top of each cap.
Makes 4 servings.      YUM!
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