I was at Whole Foods the other day with crimini mushrooms on my shopping list. These are the brown mushrooms that look very much like the common white button mushroom. They tend to cost a bit than white mushrooms but they’re actually cheaper. How’s that? The white ones are mostly water, so they cook down to almost nothing. The criminis cook down too but hold their volume a lot better (though watch out for the big farm criminis (like you get at Costco) which have more water than the good ones).
Another little known fact is that criminis are nothing more than portabellas picked early. They don’t have the same rich flavor a portabella has but they still taste like something (unlike the bland white ones). Portabellas run about $2 more per pound than criminis. Except the other day when they were on sale for the same price. So I snagged a bagful.
I often use criminis to make pesto stuffed mushrooms but I wanted to use these portabellas for a main dish.
So, I washed them, carefully pulled off the stems (rock them back and forth), cut the ends off the stems (only necessary if they aren’t trimmed before arriving at the store…the difference is easy to tell: untrimmed ones have dirt on them) and threw the stems into the food processor.
I put the mushrooms cap down on a dry baking tray and popped them in the oven at a medium temperature (300*F or so). Then I turned back to the food processor. I put in some leftover pan-fried tofu (I would have used fresh tofu but we had a big container of the cooked), a couple stalks of celery, and a large portion of sun-dried tomatoes in oil. I had to add a fair bit of water to get the consistency right. Then I salted to taste (do this after adding water).
At this point, 10-15 minutes had gone by so I took the mushrooms out of the oven and picked them up one at a time to fill (this is why I said a dry tray). After you fill them, put some oil on the tray and place them back, cap up, for baking.
Pop them in the oven (about 300*F) and cook until the top is slightly brown and the mushrooms are soft. The time will vary by the size of the mushrooms and the filling but these took around half an hour.
Now, if you’re thinking…but I don’t like sun-dried tomatoes, but I’m allergic to soy. Don’t worry. This is a very flexible recipe. If you can call it a recipe. Use whatever you like. Meat, cheese, nuts/seeds, or something that doesn’t have protein if it’s a side dish. Olives would be nice, or fresh herbs, or vegetables. The filling should have good strong flavor to complement the mellowness of the mushrooms.
Just make sure it’s thick enough to hold its shape with baking and serving but thin enough to spread. And the filling should be fully cooked. It only goes in the oven long enough to heat through and to set (or for cheese to melt).
While these were in the oven, I made a quick salad with chopped romaine lettuce, cucumber, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
They were delicious. Great cold the next day too.