Saturday, January 17, 2009

Stuffed Portabellos

Oh, rats. You know those people who put themselves down just so you will compliment them and make them feel better? They play a new song they wrote, but preface it by saying, "I don't really like it." Or they hand you a hard copy of a story they penned, and mutter, "It isn't very good." So of course, OF COURSE, you have no choice but to say something positive. "Well," you say about the song, "The hook is really cool." And for the story, "The character development is very intriguing," you enthuse in a reassuring fashion.

I am not one of those people. I swear.

The thing is though, I made this Portobello Mushroom Stuffed with Spinach and Goat Cheese recipe last night, and it was smashingly good. Lick your lips, steal a bite from your kid's plate, eat-more-than-you-should good. And I just couldn't WAIT to sidle on in here during Little Miss Piggy's nap today so that I could share it. But then I uploaded the photos from my camera, and, well, the picture looks a little disgusting. I mean, everything is all brown and white in the most unappealing fashion, and even after I typed the title directly above said disappointing photo, you still can't really tell what is depicted. So I almost just scrapped the whole thing, thinking I would post about chilaquiles instead, but no kidding, that mushroom recipe is too good to not share just because the photographer failed in her mission to make it look as yummy as it tastes.

So, please. Don't feel like you need to stroke my ego. I'm sure we can all agree that it isn't a very good photo, and I don't have a clue as to how to make it more palatable (nor do I have any more portabellos in the house to use as target practice), but I had to post it. Really, I had no choice. Because truly, if you look carefully at the aforementioned sad-looking picture, you will notice the height of the finished dish, and you have to admit, that is pretty impressive. Right?

Hi. My name is Sarah, and I am an apologist.

This recipe (sans photo, I might add) appeared in the January issue of Bon Appetit and I couldn't wait to try it. I have kind of a thing for mushrooms in the first place, but what really caught my eye about this particular one was the description in which the writer, who is not a vegetarian, makes note of it's appeal as a vegetarian entree. For obvious reasons, I was intrigued. Seven or eight years ago, I found a very simple recipe for a similar spinach-and-Fontina-stuffed-portabello, but even after countless tinkerings, The Carnivore and I finally agreed that it just wasn't that good. Fontina, as a whole, doesn't have very much flavor of it's own, and I was never able to come up with a proper marinade to flavor the mushroom. And then there was the small issue of The Carnivore feeling that the mushroom was trying too hard to pretend to be a piece of meat.

But this recipe used ample amounts of olive oil in the marinade, which, I'm a little embarassed to admit, is something that never occured to me, but which seemed a stroke of genius since that would clearly help the other flavors to better cling to the mushroom. And it was in Bon Appetit, giving it a little more authority, I felt, to reassure The Carnivore that it was worth a try. He looked a little skeptical when I announced the menu last night, but I pressed on. This recipe was going to be attempted, if for no other reason than I had planned it for earlier in the week, but had been flummoxed when, an hour before dinnertime, I actually read the recipe a little more carefully and noticed the minor detail in the instructions about marinating for four hours. I hate it when that happens.

[And to be honest, that happens much more often than it should. I try to read recipes in full the morning before I will be cooking them, to be sure I have everything on hand and that I have done any advance prep work, you know, in advance. You wouldn't believe how often though, at 5:00 in the afternoon, I discover I am missing a crucial ingredient or that I failed to soak the beans or something else equally obvious.]

With these mushrooms though, the end result was nothing short of spectacular. The filling, as I have already mentioned, achieved great height, making for a very majestic presentation, and the moist and tender texture of the mushroom provided a welcome foil to the ever-so-slight-crunch of the Parmesan topping. There was a bit of tartness from the goat cheese, which had turned silky during the cooking time, and a surprising balance of sweet and salty in the mushroom from the marinade. Most interesting though, was how hearty the dish was, so much so, in fact, that it may become one of my new favorite vegetarian entrees.

And The Carnivore? After he cleaned his plate, I caught him leaning against the oven, prying up fallen bits from the baking sheet. The true test of the universality of a vegetarian entree is whether or not a dyed-in-the-wool carnivorous type gets true enjoyment out of the dish, and this one passed with flying colors.


PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS STUFFED WITH SPINACH AND GOAT CHEESE (serves six, adapted from Bon Appetit and attributed to the Arizona restaurant Cucina Rustica)

Marinated Mushrooms

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • pinch of dried thyme
  • 6 large portobello mushrooms


  • 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 pound button mushrooms
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup plus 6 Tbs finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
  • 5-oz soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
  1. Whisk first 8 ingredients (through thyme) in a medium bowl.
  2. Cut stems from portobellos and set aside.
  3. Arrange mushrooms, gill side up, in a large glass casserole dish.
  4. Pour marinade over mushrooms, letting plenty of it pool up in the gills, and marinate for four hours.
  5. Squeeze excess water from spinach and place spinach in a small bowl.
  6. In two or three batches in a food processor, pulse the reserved portobello mushrooms with the button mushrooms until coarsely chopped.
  7. Heat 2 Tbs oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium heat.
  8. Add onion to skillet and saute, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.
  9. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds, stirring.
  10. Add chopped mushrooms and stems to skillet, sprinkle with salt, and increase heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 8 minutes, until liquid has almost completely evaporated.
  11. Season mushroom mixture with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
  12. When mushrooms have cooled to about room temperature, add the spinach, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and breadcrumbs to the mushroom mixture and stir.
  13. Fold in the goat cheese.
  14. Remove the mushrooms from the marinade and place them on a rimmed baking sheet, gill side down.
  15. Roast mushrooms at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, until mushrooms are becoming tender.
  16. Turn mushrooms over and divide filling among mushrooms.
  17. Sprinkle 1 Tbs of remaining Parmesan over the top of each mushroom.
  18. Bake for another 15 minutes.
  19. Run under the broiler for 1 or 2 minutes, until Parmesan browns and crisps up.
  20. Serve immediately.


Cindy said...

Hi. My name is Mama and I am waiting for some of this food...

Mama JJ said...

Hi. My name is Mama JJ and I think it sounds fantastic. Even the picture (a moss-covered rock, perhaps?) doesn't deter me in the least.

Becky said...

Upon reading this post I dropped everything and went to the grocery store. After 10 years in Kennett Square I've come to love mushrooms. But apparently I've also come to love getting them practically free as well. I know they have to ship them all the way from Pennsylvania, but I'd about have to take out a second mortgage to get portabellos this week. I got a baguette instead. I made the topping, put it on bread slices toasted with olive oil and, well, lets just say that Dan was still singing your praises this morning when he had the leftovers for breakfast. It must be phenomenal with the big shrooms. Maybe next week...

Sarah Beam said...

Becky, mushrooms are one of those things that I cannot live without, and it KILLS me that I can't get them locally. I hadn't thought about using the topping on toasted baguette, and that sounds incredibly delicious. I need to get right on that. Incidentally, I saw Fia grinning happily out of a pic in Athens Parent recently and couldn't help but smile back.

Cindy said...

Oh sarah - it's been eleven days. Where are you? I'm still waiting for sweet recipes that I eat. You're such a whiz on adapting things - hint hint

In His peace - Cindy
MoM(Mom of Many)

Sarah Beam said...

Cindy A, can you have brown sugar? What about white flour if it is organic? I have this new recipe I've been wanting to try...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sarah Beam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donna said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.