Recently it occurred to me that when I entered (and subsequently lost) that cooking contest, lo those many weeks ago, I created a recipe that I came to love so much, I just don’t think it would be right to let the recipe languish on the contest’s website. I don’t think it is against the contest’s rules to take my recipe back, so, if nobody objects, I believe I will.
My hunch is that, if you never mention its absence, nobody will even think to bemoan the lack of meat in this meal. It really is that fulfilling, and in a way that I think all vegetarian and vegan food should be. I am not making any substitutions for meat here, I am simply celebrating and building upon what these fresh, natural ingredients have to offer. No meat required.
The best kind of vegetarian and vegan food, I think, is the type that doesn’t need to be specified as being either. When you eat something delicious, it should just be delicious, plain and simple, no matter if you eat beef steaks or tofu cakes (or both). When I was developing this recipe for stuffed portobello mushroom caps, one of my main goals was to make this a dish that could be set upon a big holiday table and entice every single person at that table, omnivore, herbivore, or what have you. Portobello mushrooms, with their undeniably meaty texture, provide a satisfying meatiness for those who call for such with their meals. Topped with sautéed cubes of artisan bread, savory apple bits, and crisp, flavorful pecans, you can easily make a main dish out of this. Add in a rich, thick gravy of caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, and heavenly mushroom stock, and the celebratory meal is made complete.
Roasted Portobello Mushroom Caps with Apple Pecan Stuffing
2 large Portobello mushrooms, scrubbed clean
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 ½ cups crusty bread cubes, about ½ inch in diameter
¼ cup finely diced onion
¾ cup chopped, peeled apple pieces, about ¼ inch in diameter
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup mushroom broth (if you can’t find any, vegetable stock will do nicely)
¼ cup roughly chopped pecans
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a medium-sized baking dish and set aside.
Remove stems from scrubbed Portobello mushrooms and reserve stems to use later. Using a spoon, gently scrape out the gills from the underside of each mushroom cap. Lightly brush both the top and bottom of each cap with olive oil and set aside.
In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, add bread cubes and sauté until crisp and browned, about 4-5 minutes. Remove bread cubes from pan and set aside.
In the same skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-low heat. When oil is hot, add onions. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown at edges, about 3 minutes. Add chopped apples, stirring and sautéing until lightly browned and just beginning to soften, 4-5 minutes.
Add bread cubes back into skillet and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low and add sage, parsley, and mushroom broth, stirring to combine. When broth has been absorbed, about 1-2 minutes, remove skillet from heat and stir in pecans. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Fill each mushroom cap with stuffing, dividing as evenly as possible. The stuffing will mound up quite a bit. Place stuffed mushrooms in prepared baking dish, and roast in oven for 25-30 minutes, until mushrooms have darkened a bit and the stuffing has become quite crisp on top.
Serve with caramelized onion mushroom gravy. Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish.
Caramelized Onion Mushroom Gravy
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ small yellow onion, sliced into thin ribs
reserved stems from 2 portobello mushrooms, chopped medium-fine
½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups mushroom broth (if you can’t find any, vegetable stock will do nicely)
½ teaspoon chopped fresh sage
½ teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over low heat. Add onions, and slowly caramelize over low heat, 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. When onions are soft, brown, and caramelized, add chopped mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms have softened and darkened, 2-3 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar, and stir to incorporate until vinegar has been absorbed, about 1 minute.
Move onions and mushrooms to the edges of the skillet, leaving an open space in the middle. Turn heat up to medium. Sprinkle flour in the open space in the middle of the skillet, and cook flour, stirring frequently, until browned, 3-4 minutes. Slowly whisk in mushroom broth, incorporating the broth and flour into the onions and mushrooms and whisking to eliminate any lumps of flour that might initially form. Simmer over medium heat, whisking frequently, until gravy thickens, about 5 minutes. Add sage and parsley and whisk to incorporate. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Makes a tad more than 1 1/2 cups of gravy.