Friday, September 10, 2010

The best Portobello burgers

Well, Tim is a vegetarian.  I was intrigued at first, then I tried everything I could do to make meals taste like meat without meat.  Then, after about 2 years of being successful, but running out of steam, I decided to do a better job at looking at the vegetarian dishes I was going to cook next.

So I have recipe's for vegetarian stroganoff, and all kinds of nifty tofu burgers made from scratch.  But my best, favorite, and easiest one is Portobello burgers.  And they are so easy, you'll wonder why you haven't made it before.  You will find they are a meaty textured alternative that is high in zinc, and very low in calories.

First, let me tell you, you can make these in a simple cast iron pan, a non-stick saute pan or even a grill pan.  I know how people feel about non-stick, but it's easier and you can use no oil (if you are cutting calories)!  It's up to you how you want to cook them.

So - here it is, the basics of it, and you can riff on it however you like!

Portobello Burgers
(serves 2)

2 large Portobello mushrooms, stems trimmed, wiped with a damp paper towel and as dry as possible
salt to taste
pepper to taste
fresh herbs chopped finely (about 1 tbsp.)
2 tbsp. olive oil or neutral vegetable oil (optional)

Garnishes: (of course all the below are optional)
2 Burger buns or 4 slices of the bread of your choice
Cheese of your choice (I live goat cheese, and blue cheese is particularly good)
Lettuce or greens of your choice
Sliced tomato
sliced pickles
relish of any kind
Ketchup, mustard, mayo... anything you would use to dress a burger.

Make sure the mushrooms are as clean and dry as possible.  I come from the "never wash mushrooms under water EVER school" but of course, it's up to you how to wash them.  The important point here is that they are very dry when you are ready to cook them.

Place 1 tbsp. of the oil in a skillet or rub your grill pan with the oil and heat it until hot.  If you are grilling the mushrooms, rub the oil on the mushrooms and let them sit for a few minutes.  Oil and season both sides of the mushrooms with salt and pepper and the herbs you have chosen, I find that thyme is great with mushrooms.  If you only have dry herbs, use them sparingly, they tend to be much stronger than fresh.  Place the mushrooms gills side down on the pan or grill.  If you used oil, they will flare a but, don't worry.  If using the grill put them on the cooler side of it.  A high grill/pan temperature will only burn them, not cook them through.  If you are using a skillet, do the same, gills side down first.  As they cook, you will see them render juice out, that is fine, and should happen.  After about 7 minutes, turn them over, lower your heat to medium and cook them an additional 5 - 8 minutes.  When you turn them gills side up, you can/should put the cheese in the cup that is formed, they will continue to cook and the cheese will melt.  When you turn over the mushrooms, avoid the temptation to press on them.  They will flatten naturally, but pressing them down will force the juice and flavor out and they will shrivel up and dry out.  This is not what you want, you want a juicy, well flavored mushroom.

After another 5 - 8 minutes, you will notice they flatten out a bit and become thinner.  At this point they are cooked.  Remove them and place them immediately on the bread you are using.  Let them rest for a minute or two.  Then, have fun dressing them!!

I have made these many times, and I recommend the grill cooking, because it adds a great charred flavor to the taste.

Enjoy, and let me know how these turn out and what twists you use!

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