Thursday, 13 January 2011

Green Around the Gills

Substituting the portobella mushroom for a beef patty is nothing new. And why wouldn't it be? It's easy and quick. If you feel you eat too much red meat (which I and much of North America does), portobella is an excellent alternative to a burger.

Last post, I was discussing everyone's favourite fungus, the mushroom. But there is way too much to cover and so I had to cap it off.

What many people may or may not know is that the common white mushroom, the cremini and the portobella mushroom are basically the same thing. What differs them from one another is the maturity level. I imagine many of you can figure out which mushroom has been allowed to grow the longest. That's right! You guessed it. It's the portobella. Or is it the portobello? Oh, whatever. You get what I mean. Because the portobella has been allowed to mature and grow, the gills can bleed quite extensively. Some chefs I've worked for would cut out the gills while other chefs couldn't be bothered. In my opinion, I leave them in for most recipes and will cut them out for only a few recipes. For example, Mushroom Polenta or Cornbread. The gills bleed and makes the polenta very grey looking and very unappetizing. Or maybe a chowder or a cream sauce where I want to retain the white colour. As you can see, I determine it for the sake of appearance. Not so much for texture or flavour.

Then again, many of you may not care about the appearance. But, I think, to a certain degree, everyone does. Every time we go grocery shopping, we are bombarded with magazine covers where the dishes look ridiculously delicious. Or on T.V. where these chefs seem to make these gorgeous dinners in less than half an hour. And because of this, can it not be said that we start to want our own food to look this good all the time? Appearance matters. When you buy beef, do you normally base your judgment on the redness of the beef? Even though the colour can be very deceiving. Sure, grey beef is not usually a good thing, but just because the alternative is red, doesn't mean it's fresher. With a quick flash of carbon monoxide, that meat can stay red much longer after it's gone rancid. Scary. How about produce? If you see two red peppers where one is a perfect shape and other looks curled over and slightly disfigured. Which do you buy? If you said the perfect one, why? Will it taste better?

Anyways, appearance matters whether we like it or not. So, keep the garnishes coming!

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms on a Foccaccia

6 Large Portobello Mushrooms, washed
1 Red Pepper
100 ml Balsamic Vinegar
100 ml Oil
2 Garlic Cloves, crushed
Drizzle of Honey
1 Package of Arugula
Small Package of Blue Cheese (Gorgonzola is good), crumbled
6 Foccaccias
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Score the cap of the mushroom with two cross hatches.

Marinate mushrooms in oil and balsamic vinegar and two cloves of crushed garlic.

Coat red peppers with oil and grill peppers until blackened on the outside. Place in a sealed bag and close. Steam through for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Peel skin away and discard innards. Keep flesh of peppers.

In a hot grill pan or on the BBQ, grill mushrooms for 3 minutes per side. Remove and cut in half.

On a foccaccia, rub last clove of garlic on the inside. Place arugula, peppers and mushrooms in panini. Add desired amount of cheese.

Makes 6 sandwiches.

A Humble Chef's tip: if it's winter time, cook your peppers in the oven at 400 for 30 min. Less smoke will emit if you roast them.

Variation: Goat's Cheese over the blue if you don't like blue cheese.

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