By Carolyne

If you haven’t eaten grilled portobello mushrooms, you really don’t know what you are missing. Truly they taste like a good steak.

Quick and easy and beyond delicious, you can top the gill side pocket with any mixture you can create. Some people scrape out the gills. For me, it depends on what filling I have chosen to use.



The gills leach dark brown tea-like liquid and easily can discolour a light filling. Portobellos are generous in acceptance of many fillings. Buy them fresh and store them in the fridge or a cool place in a closed paper bag for just a few days. I wrap them gently in (white only) paper towel and then store in a brown paper bag. Definitely do not store any mushrooms in plastic bags. Mushrooms have natural high-water content, and plastic will cause them to sweat.

Keep a special soft-bristle, dry, never used, toothbrush handy in a protected cover to dust off any sandy soil bits from the mushrooms. A make-up soft brush dedicated for the kitchen will also work. Stores sell expensive mushroom brushes if you are so inclined to purchase. Avoid washing mushrooms if at all possible. They are extremely permeable.

I saw a TV show where our prime minister’s Sussex Drive chef inserted sheets of brown paper towel, the kind you often find in public washrooms, into a pot of simmering pears to keep them stable in the cooking pot. I could hardly believe my eyes. Wondered if this was an everyday practice. Or if the preparation would be served to honoured guests under the guise of food security guidelines. Oh, my! One could expect the show producer might have evaporated that shot?

Save those brown paper towels for mopping up spills or drips underfoot but never use for food prep.

Portobello filling

Prepare duck breast your favourite way. Slice thinly, on the diagonal. Adjust duck seasoning.

Grill a large portobello mushroom, about four-inch diameter, one for each person. Just drizzle a little Mazola corn oil, or your favourite oil, over each one, leaving the gills intact. Salt and pepper only when you remove the mushroom from the grill.

Immediately top the sliced duck with a drizzle of special béchamel sauce made using a roux cooked this way: add equal parts duck fat and flour. Add a little salt and fresh ground pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Cook long enough to break down the flour, stirring constantly. Stir in a quarter cup of congealed cognac figgy jus from your fresh black mission fig marinating jar and reduce. (If you don’t have figgy jus, substitute a tablespoon of liquid honey.) Remove from heat as soon as you add honey; honey apparently loses some of its qualities.

Add to the special roux, a quarter cup of pulsed dried crispy bacon that is nearly pulverized. You are establishing flavour. Let the sauce rest briefly. Sprinkle with just a tiny bit of mashed oven-roasted garlic clove from your refrigerator-stored jar. Squeeze a little juice of a very sweet orange into the roux mix.

Flambé the cooked duck breast before carving. Deglaze the duck breast pan with a little more cognac. Pour the tablespoon or two of the deglaze liquid over the sliced duck. Mound the sliced duck onto the grilled portobello gills. Then add a tablespoon of the roux sauce to each serving.

Top with a thick juicy slice of beefsteak tomato (or see if you can find a white or yellow large juicy tomato) and shredded Boston Bibb lettuce, drizzled with my warm blue cheese dressing, freshly made. Pour straight from the stove pot.

On the side in an oval presentation plate, or in a flat oval gratin dish, serve a cup of freshly made rich white peach chutney. Duck on the palate loves fresh fruit. You could use fresh white peach wedges, sautéed in butter and golden-brown sugar, instead. Perhaps drizzle with cognac figgy jus or add a chopped fresh, juicy, generous black mission fig.

For a king-sized meal, add a special manwich, a piping hot grilled cheese sandwich, buttered both sides, made with Sartino BellaVitano Raspberry cheese shards on thick slices of my homemade dill bread, to which you have imbedded a large thick firm slice of beefsteak tomato and a little warm blue cheese dressing, and shredded Boston Bibb lettuce. Lots of fresh ground pepper. Watch closely and only turn the manwich one time.

Butter-idea:

Butter the exterior of the dill bread generously but use one of your stored refrigerated herbed compound butter pucks, and grill just until it’s a golden colour. If you are using seafood stuffing, marry the grilled cheese manwich by using a puck of your frozen, room temperature lobster compound butter. Cut the manwich corner to corner or on the diagonal, and present alongside the stuffed portobello.

Serve on a warmed oval plate resting on an oversized oval platter as a charger, along with a serrated strong steak knife and a sturdy dinner fork.

Alternate:

Load a large grilled portobello with a chopped crab or lobster mix, replacing the duck roux. Simply replace the duck fat with bacon fat. Drizzle the béchamel sauce made using a little of your homemade lobster oil in the roux. Continue as above.

If you feel the desire to add dessert to the table, perhaps offer a white peach panna cotta, made the day ahead, and kept refrigerated. It would end the meal wonderfully; again, drizzled with cognac figgy jus, topped with a split fresh black mission fig just when ready to serve.

If beer or ale is your thing (apparently real beer drinkers sprinkle a little salt in their glass), it goes well with either choice of stuffed grilled portobello. You might like to indulge in a brand called Stella Artois. If you prefer wine, you might find Obikwa South African Shiraz pairs well, and is particularly a good pairing if you are just making an extraordinary grilled cheese manwich.

If you decide that a salad would round out the meal, you might want to remember this particularly wonderful REM gourmet cooking column for those on the run from several years ago.


© “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks” Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience

The working title for Carolyne’s Gourmet Recipes cookbook is From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks. This kitchen-friendly doyenne has been honoured and referred to as the grande dame of executive real estate in her market area during her 35-year career. She taught gourmet cooking in the mid-70s and wrote a weekly newspaper cooking column, long before gourmet was popular as it is today. The cookbook will be available in the coming year. Email Carolyne.

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