Beef-Surpassing Portobellos

Beef-Surpassing Portobellos

  • one and one-half portobello caps per diner - should be very fresh
  • 1 medium onion per four portobello caps, chopped
  • butter
  • Japanese soy sauce (not the low-salt varieties)
  • dry vermouth
  • a pinch of my own personal formula for curry powder (oh dear...)
  • pepper
  • a fairly tannic-flavored red wine
  • basil leaves, big, washed and dried (two leaves per one cap)
  • some smoked mozzarella cheese, preferably from New York City

Heat your skillet on medium, so that when you put in the butter (one tbsp. per cap) it melts quickly and begins to sizzle very slightly. Sprinkle your curry powder over the butter and just as the butter turns orange from the curry powder, add the chopped onion and toss very thoroughly. Lower the heat and cover the onions to let them sweat for ten minutes. Then stir them around to reduce their water a little. Rake them to the side of the skillet, and place the portobello caps top down into the pan. Place a bacon press or some other clever confection of weight on top of the mushrooms, but it should not be so heavy that it smashes them.

Cook on medium heat this way for four minutes. Move them around every once in a while to make sure nothing sticks.

Remove bacon press or whatever and place a tablespoon of butter into the upturned underside of each cap. To this add a spoonful of the nice Japanese soy sauce, and a splash of the vermouth. Then flip them so that all of this goes into the pan. Repeat the bit about the bacon press/weight, and cook for four minutes. Just a minute before you flip them back with the cap side down, crank up the heat to about medium-high.

Work the onions around the mushrooms, but the surface of the cap should not be sitting on top of the onions; rather it should be directly touching the cooking surface of the skillet. Nothing should be sticking to the bottom at this point - yet.

Place two big basil leaves in the upturned caps. On top of this put a few strips of the smoked mozzarella, but if it's a properly-made cheese you'll be able to sort of peel of the outside layer of cheese, which is the part where the strongest smoke flavor is, and those parts are best for this dish. If you don't like a strong smoked mozzarella you can surely substitute a milder one.

Now monitor the condition of the onions. The moment they turn brown and threaten to scorch (but aren't scorching yet) pour about a cup of the red wine over them. Shake the pan so that the red wine is circulating throughout the pan. Cook the red wine down quickly by having the pan on high heat. As soon as this happens, shove the whole skillet under the broiler (which you will have preheated...oops.) and watch it ceaselessly until the cheese has melted and turned golden on top.

These are good served on warmed plates, with a little of the reduced wine-sauce spooned over them, and a twist of the pepper mill adds a nice fragrance.

Saffron rice has a nice affinity with this dish.

A recipe from Alfred


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