April 20th, 2009

Perfect Grilled Portobellos

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I’ve had my share of assed out portobello sandwiches. Over-seasoned, soaked through with too much vinegar and soy sauce, a few jaundiced pieces of lettuce, black gunk mucking up the bread, and oh! let us charge you 12 bucks for the privilege. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Portobellos should be juicy and succulent. What we want to do is coax that luscious flavor out, not hide it with condiments.

BBQ season is here so it’s a great time to learn to grill a portobello just perfectly. You  bite through the focaccia and have that juice spill out all over your face; a little char, slightly salty, complex and earthy.

And this burger works for the “plants have feelings” set, too. Even if you hate animals and hate vegans, it’s time to give up the burgers if you want to leave a little bit of earth to your children (OK, maybe you hate children, too.) There’s just too much evidence mounting against your free-will arguments. The truth is, your burger is ruining everyone else’s day. And with something as yummy as a portobello, well, there really is no excuse! Plus, look at the nutritional differences (nutritional info from my olive oil bottle and the internet.)
Hamburger plus a teaspoon of olive oil
Calories: 250
Fat: 18.5 grams (most of it the bad kind!)
Fiber: 0
Protein: 20

Portobello plus a teaspoon olive oil (the other ingredients are negligible, but adjust as you like)
Calories: 66
Fat: 4.5 (most of it the good kind!)
Fiber: 1.5
Protein: 2.5

So the only place where the burger is winning here is the protein content which you can easily compensate for with a side of quinoa salad. Not to mention that you don’t need 20 grams of protein at every meal. Do your own research, work it out. Don’t be part of the problem, be a part of the delicious, delicious solution.

Grilled Portobello Sandwiches
Makes 4

Grilling really brings out the juicy best in these portobellos, so I use the bare minimum of ingredients to let them really flaunt their flavor. A little (cheap!) chardonnay for depth of flavor, tamari for a bit of saltiness, baslamic for a touch of zest, and garlic for, well, it’s garlic! Choose firm, light colored mushrooms with fresh, healthy looking gills that spring back when you gently rub your finger across them. Don’t remove the gills, they are loaded with flavor and texture, not to mention they soak up garlic and marinade beautifully. Gently wash your caps before marinading and you are A-ok. Skip that anemic hamburger bun and go for a bready focaccia that can stand up to the portobello juices that are bound to make you lick your fingers.

Tip: Save your portobello stems for gravy or broth.

4 portobello mushrooms, stems removed

For the marinade:
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced

For the sandwich:
4 nice sized pieces foccacia bread
A few handfuls baby arugula
Slices of sweet onion (like walla walla or vidalia)
Slices of tomato
A little vegan mayo

Place the portobellos gills up in a rimmed baking sheet.

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and spoon over the portobellos. Let marinate for at least half an hour, spooning marinade back onto the mushrooms every ten minutes or so.

Grease up your grill with olive oil and preheat over medium/high. It’s important to keep some oil nearby for brushing the grill through out the cooking process. You can use a grill brush for it, or a paper towel wadded up and grasped in your tongs. You can also use a spray bottle of oil.

Place the mushrooms gill side up on the grill. Close lid and let mushrooms cook for about 5 minutes, lifting the lid to baste shrooms with marinade every few minutes. Use tongs to turn the mushrooms 90 degrees to make cross hatched grill marks; cook for about 3 more minutes. Flip mushrooms over and cook for about 3 more minutes. Your cooking time may vary depending on the size of your portobellos and the temperature of your grill. You know the mushrooms are done when you press on the center with tongs (where the stem used to be) and it’s very soft and juicy.

Remove from heat and let rest for about 5 minutes. This lets the flavors develop a bit and the juices taste even yummier when they are just a little bit cooled down. You can use this time to slice your bread and prep the veggies.

Assemble sandwiches and sink your teeth in.

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