Long gone are the days when the only mushrooms in the produce aisle were white button, portobello, or cremini. Many markets offer dozens of varieties, and many that were once available only seasonally are now farmed almost year-round.
Are you a mushroom person? It seems to be a divided camp when it comes to these tiny fungi. I grew up with them and so did my kids so they are comfort food in my house. My Mom put mushrooms in everything from holiday stuffing to weeknight dinner salads.
Whether cultivated or wild, common or rare, mushrooms are easy to prepare and add intense flavor to everything from soups, stews, and sauces to meats, stuffings, and egg dishes.
Today I’m making stuffed cedar plank smoked portobello mushrooms. The soaked cedar planks create a fragrant smoke when placed on the hot grill infusing the mushrooms with the most delicate flavor. For a long time I shied away from the idea of grilling with cedar because the thought of cedar reminded me of a hamster cage or a old cedar chest and nothing about that seemed appetizing. BUT, burned cedar is another story. I can only describe it as a spa like fragrence. I once spent time in the Basque region of Spain where the hot water is heated by burning cedar logs as lumber was the main industry in the surrounding towns. There’s nothing quite like taking a shower with water heated by burning cedar. The mild fragrance is amazing.
These mushrooms are stuffed with a simple yet delicious blend of sauteed mushroom, onion and garlic with baby spinach panko bread crumbs and white cheddar cheese. Chopped pecans add a sweet crunch. It is finished with flavors of fresh sage and stone ground mustard. For me this and a salad makes a perfect meal but it can also be a perfect paring for a juicy grilled steak.
I have to resist the urge to eat this stuffing right out of the pan. It is delicious alone and even better in the mushroom cap. As the mushrooms cook they become tender and creamy. Then when the cheese melts and the garlic and herbs kick in it’s all GOOD!
Scroll down below the recipe for tips on washing and storing mushrooms.
Cedar Plank Smoked Portobello Mushrooms
- 1 14×6 inch cedar grilling plank
- 5 medium portobello mushrooms
- 1 Tbsp Olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 5-ounce package fresh baby spinach
- 3/4 cup course panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
- 2 Tbsp chopped pecans
- 1 Tbsp snipped fresh sage
- 1 Tbsp course ground mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Soak plank in enough water to cover for at least one hour. Place a weight on top so the plank remains submerged.
- Remove stems from four of the mushroom caps; chop stems.
- Chop the fifth mushroom cap. Scrape and discard gills from the remaining four.
- For filling, in a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped mushroom and stems onion and garlic. Cook and stir about five minutes until tender. Stir in spinach. Cook and stir about two minutes or until wilted. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients.
- Grill the planks uncovered over medium heat 3-5 minutes until planks begin to crackle and smoke. Meanwhile, grill mushroom caps stem side up, uncovered over medium heat about 3 minutes or until grill marks appear.Place mushroom caps on the planks stem side up. Spoon filling into the mushroom caps. Cove and grill about 15 minutes or until mushrooms are browned and the stuffing is heated through.
- Transfer planks with mushrooms to a serving platter. Garnish with fresh sage leaves
HOW TO SHOP FOR MUSHROOMS
What Should You Look for? I like to buy loose rather than prepackaged mushrooms so you can inspect their condition and quality. Look for mushrooms with whole, intact caps and avoid those with discoloration or dry, shriveled patches. The mushrooms should feel faintly damp but never moist nor slimy, and their texture should be springy and light rather than spongy.
Aroma is another important indicator of quality and intensity—the stronger the sweet, earthy scent, the more potent and flavorful the mushrooms. Don’t buy mushrooms if they smell sour or fishy, and be sure to pick ones with large caps and minimal stems since the stems are often discarded.
HOW TO STORE MUSHROOMS
Due to their high moisture content, mushrooms are very perishable. They can go from plump to shriveled and slimy in no time.
DON’T wrap mushrooms in a paper bag, as many sources suggest. It turns the fungi spongy and wrinkly.
DON’T cover mushrooms with a damp paper towel (another common technique), as it only speeds up their deterioration.
DO store loose mushrooms in a partially open zipper-lock bag, which maximizes air circulation without drying out the mushrooms. Leaving the bag slightly open allows for the release of the ethylene gas emitted from the mushrooms.
DO store packaged mushrooms in their original containers. These containers are designed to “breathe,’’ maximizing the life of the mushrooms by balancing the retention of moisture and release of ethylene gas. If you open a sealed package of mushrooms but don’t use all the contents, simply rewrap the remaining mushrooms in the box with plastic wrap.
HOW TO CLEAN MUSHROOMS
Should You Wash Mushrooms You’re Going to Cook? If they’re whole, yes. Although many sources advise against washing mushrooms (to avoid their soaking up any additional moisture) and suggest brushing them instead. Since mushrooms are about 80% water they actually do not soak up much additional water. Contrary to popular belief, a quick rinse for whole mushrooms is suggested.
Cut mushrooms are a different story. The exposed flesh will absorb more water, so rinse mushrooms before slicing them. And be careful not to wash mushrooms until you are ready to cook them or they will turn slimy.
Should You Wash Mushrooms You’re Serving Raw? In a word, no, because rinsing mushrooms can cause discoloration, and you want your meal to look as good as it tastes. I recommend cleaning mushrooms that will be served raw by brushing them with a dry soft toothbrush.
How to Clean Portobello Mushrooms
Whether you spell it portabella, portobello, or portobella, nobody can tell you you’re wrong.
Remove the stems. The stems of large portabellas, while technically edible, can be woody and fibrous and are usually discarded (or used to flavor stock). They should pop right out when you pull on them with your fingers.
Remove the gills. Likewise, the dark black gills can be eaten, but they’ll turn your food brown, so it’s best to scrape ’em out. The key here is to pry with the tip of a spoon instead of just going at it with the side of the spoon. It should come out in neat, discrete chunks instead of staining the whole cap (and your fingers). It can be easy to ding up the sides of the mushroom as you do this, but it’s ok—it’ll look just fine once it’s done cooking.
When cooking the cap whole, it’s best to score it lightly on the top side. This allows steam from inside to escape more easily, which both hastens cooking, and makes it more even. It also prevents the mushroom from distorting as it shrinks while it cooks. If you’re planning to use a marinade, it’ll also provide access channels for flavors to penetrate more deeply.
How to Clean Shiitake Mushrooms
Fresh shiitakes have a distinct flavor that makes them great in Asian soups (many recipes actually call for more intensely flavored dried shiitake), but also work really well sautéed, fried, or grilled.
With portobello stems, discarding is a matter of personal taste. With shiitake, it’s not an option. The stems are tough and leathery. They’re also stuck to the caps more firmly than most other mushrooms. To remove them, pinch the stem very firmly at the base right where it meets the cap.
Slowly and gently pry off the stem, trying to remove as little of the inner cap material as possible.
Once the stems have been removed, you can further break down shiitake by cutting them into quarters (great for larger caps on the grill or stir-fries), or by slicing them thinly across the cap.
How to Clean Oyster Mushrooms
The easiest of the bunch, Oyster mushrooms come bundled in a large group, all attached to the same central stem. To clean oyster mushrooms, just use the tip of a sharp knife to carefully cut around the firm central stem and watch as the individual caps fall away. Discard the stem or reserve it for adding to stock.