Monday, July 29, 2013

Stuffed Portabella Cannibals

Vegetarians are so funny.  They can be so indignant!  "Good grief Ken, would it kill you to eat a vegetable once in awhile?"  Sheesh.  Ok, today's recipe was inspired by my good friend, Shelly B.  Shelly is a vegetarian, and yet she cheerfully tolerates me bringing an "actual" turkey to her house for her Thanksgiving celebration.  She may have even stolen a bite or two when nobody was looking so Shelly is "Aces" in my book.  Therefore, when I hosted dinner for her, I sat down and worked out something (other than a bowl of steamed broccoli) that I knew she would enjoy eating.

I call these Portabella Cannibals because I cook the stems from the mushrooms, then stuff them right back into the mushroom caps.  It's sick, I know, but they're delicious so...

You will need:
  • 6 large Portabella Mushrooms if you want to serve them as an entree OR a few dozen "Baby Bellas" if you want to serve them as appetizers.
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Oregano
  • Fresh Garlic (5 or 6 large cloves)
  • Fresh Jalapeno (one or two)
  • Fresh Roma Tomatoes
  • Red Onion (1 large)
  • Panko Bread Crumbs
  • Fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for grating

Yes, I realize that I didn't say exactly how much of everything you will need.  This recipe does not require laboratory precision and relentless predictability.  It's about love!  Besides, how large is "1 large red onion" anyway?  Some of those things are gargantuan so.... hold on, we'll figure it out.  There are lots of pictures, that should help!

First, pull all of the stems out of your portabella caps.  drizzle a ring of olive oil into the caps and set them aside, belly up.  Chop the stems up into a small dice and toss them into a pot with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and saute them (stirring frequently) until they're soft.  Take them off the heat and set them aside to cool.

Finely chop the Basil, Cilantro, Jalapeno, Garlic, and Oregano.  Dump all of the Jalapeno and Garlic into a big bowl.  Grab spoonfuls of the rest until it feels "Right" to you.  You can see in the picture, I ended up with about a cup and a half of the mixture.  It should smell great, if you love basil, go heavy with it.  I'm a cilantro guy so I went with a whole bundle of that, then added a few Tbsp of the others.  Go with your gut.  Drizzle in some Balsamic Vinegar (just a splash or two) and some olive oil.  Mix, stir, and set aside to "mingle."

Next, give a nice fine dice to two or three Roma Tomatoes, and an equal amount of Red Onion.  Toss them in with the herbs and garlic and mix well.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.  How does your kitchen smell now?  It should smell like Tuscany, Italy.  In the fall.... Check your Portabella stems.  If they've cooled to room temperature, you can add them to the bowl.  If they're still hot, just wait a few minutes.  You don't want the heat from the stems to start cooking the herbs prematurely.  Everything should cook together so you can get a better balance of aroma and texture.  Your patience at this stage will be rewarded.

If you've done your job well, the mix will appear to be juicy.  Salt is bringing moisture out of the tomatoes and onions, etc.  If you're worried that it's "too juicy" to make a proper stuffing, then rest easy.  This is why you have Panko Breadcrumbs!  Shake some over the top of your mushroom veggie mix and stir it in.  How much will depend on how well it binds your mix together.  You want a mix that hold its own shape, but just barely.  If you're worried, scoop some out with an ice-cream scoop and gently lay it out on a flat surface.  If it sits there happily, while just starting to ooze out from under itself, you're ready!

Now, it's time to take your lovely vegetable and mushroom saute, and stuff it right back into the belly of the beast from which it came!  Scoop the stuffing out and pack it into your mushroom caps.  Line them up, like little soldiers, on a cookie sheet.  If you have a charcoal grill or smoker, put the sheet over indirect heat and close the lid.  Bring the heat up to 350 or so, using the air intake baffles (more air = higher heat).  You could also bake them in a 350 degree oven.

After they've had about 20 minutes of cook time, check on them.  You want them to soften and to cook, but you don't want them falling apart.  You should be able to use a pair of tongs to serve them, not a spatula and spoon.  When they come out of the oven, the tops should be golden brown.  Quickly sprinkle a light dusting of Parmigiano cheese over the tops and serve while hot!

I apologize for the lack of a "final finished" product; my guests just ate them all as soon as they came out of the smoker.  I literally came back outside from the kitchen and they were gone!  I'm scheduled to make them again, soon, so I should be able to update this entry with a good picture... If I can keep Shelly in a cage or something until I can get the camera.

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