Mushrooms. I’m crazy about their rich, meaty taste. When I learned about the fifth taste called umami, I began to understand my love of mushrooms. Here, I’ve stuffed Portobello mushrooms with oven roasted tomatoes and goat cheese for a fantastic savory appetizer or meatless main dish.
Mushrooms and Umami – The 5th Sense
discovered by a Japanese scientist in 1908, umami is a term borrowed from the Japanese language conveying a pleasant, delicious, savory taste. It’s a singular taste that cannot be called sweet, sour, salty or bitter. It’s found in other foods like asparagus, tomatoes, soy sauce and truffles, shellfish, Parmesan cheese, and other foods. For more of a list, check out The Umami Information Center.
Scrape Out the Gills for More Room
Working in the kitchen of a steakhouse restaurant, I worked along side prep cooks cleaning mounds of Portobello mushrooms. They trimmed off the tough stems, then scraped out the chocolaty colored gills with a spoon creating a clean mushroom to grill or fill.
Portobello (also spelled Portobella or Portabella) mushrooms are mature cremini mushrooms. The caps are usually about 4” or 10 cm across. They are dark brown in color and unlike smaller mushrooms, they are purchased with the gills showing. They have a foresty, earthy smell and meaty taste and texture.
Most people leave the gills in Portobello mushrooms. I scrape them out. When you do, the big jumbo caps make a great vessel for filling. They look better and are more appetizing without the gills.
How to Clean Mushrooms
Start by gently wiping the outside of the mushrooms caps with a damp paper towel to remove any surface dirt. Next, pop out the stem by pushing it from side to side. It should come out clean. If not, remove any extra with a paring knife so the inside is flat. Next, use a teaspoon to gently scrape out the dark brown gills from inside the cap. Set mushrooms aside.
Fill and Bake
Brush with a vinaigrette (or just olive oil), broil for a few minutes, then fill with roasted tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese and herbs. Bake for 12 minutes and you have a great appetizer or a meatless main dish to be served with a salad.
Serve them with whole wheat pasta or brown rice for a more substantial dish. When you buy Portobello mushrooms, look for firm, moist caps that are not broken. They will hold for approximately 4-5 days after purchase when properly stored.
Find the recipe for the oven roasted tomatoes here. They take 20-25 minutes and will last a few days in the fridge so you can make them ahead of time.
These giant, meaty mushrooms make a terrific appetizer or meatless main dish. The oven roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and herbs add to their earthy, savory flavor. For a more substantial meal, add a green salad and whole wheat pasta or brown rice. Make the roast tomatoes ahead or while you are prepping the mushrooms.They take 20-25 minutes, plus another 12 minutes to bake the filled mushrooms. You can use plain olive oil to brush the mushrooms if preferred.
- 4 large Portobello mushrooms, about 4″ (10cm) across
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon finely chopped shallot (optional)
- 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 ounces of plain goat cheese
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoons fresh chopped chives
- 1 recipe of oven roasted tomatoes
- If you have not made the oven roasted tomatoes ahead, do them first. They take just a few minutes of prep time and 20-25 minutes in the oven.
- While the tomatoes are roasting, clean the mushrooms by gently wiping the outside of the caps with a damp paper towel or brushing any dirt off with a soft brush. Next, pop out the stems by pushing them from side to side until the snap out. Then with a teaspoon, scrape the gills out until the underside is mostly clean. Place them on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet.
- Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot and garlic. Brush mushroom caps inside and out with the olive oil mixture (or plain olive oil). Sprinkle each cap with salt and pepper.
- Pre-heat the broiler. With the oven rack on the second to the top level, broil the mushrooms for 3-5 minutes until they are hot and the edges are starting to brown. They will start to release moisture and get juicy. Remove from the oven.
- Pre-heat the oven to 375 (190C). Fill the caps with the roasted tomatoes and dot with the goat cheese. Sprinkle with the fresh herbs.
- Bake for 12 minutes or until hot and the cheese has softened. Brush with a little extra olive oil on the edges to make them shine. Serve.