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.