Portobello mushrooms are not a separate species, rather they are just large creminis. Once they grow to a size of 4”-6” in diameter they are called Portobellos really just to they can be marketed differently. How it got its name isn’t really clear, I mean, how did the ‘Patagonian Toothfish’ become ‘Chilean Sea Bass’… or ‘Slimefish’ become ‘Orange Roughy??’
Here are a couple theories…
- Named after Portobello Road in London which has many high-end antique shops and other fashionable clothing and jewelry shops.
- Named after a T.V. show called Portobello.
- The Portobello in Northern Italy is called “cappellone” which means “big hat”.
Who really cares…it’s all ‘marketing’ as they say. The best thing about them is they have a nice, earthy aroma, a nutty flavor, and a texture that allows them to stand up to heat while maintaining their shape. For our vegetarian friends out there you probably already know that they are great simply tossed in a little EVO, salt & pepper and grilled like you would a steak. They become rich and juicy and make great veggie burgers. The well-known ‘Shake Shack’ chain has a ‘Juicy Lucy’* version they call a ‘Shroom Burger’ made with two breaded and fried Portobellos stuffed with Muenster and Cheddar cheese that is absolutely delicious. As a little bit of Americana food trivia, ‘Juicy Lucy’ refers to a burger where the cheese is stuffed inside the meat and oozes out once you bite into it. There are two bars in Minneapolis who claim to have invented it but there are now versions of it served across the Midwest.
“Original Jucy Lucy” and new “Shroom Burger” Juicy Lucy style…
Okay… getting off-track a bit here… must be getting close to lunch time.
When shopping for Portobellos you want to look for ones that are firm and plump with no evidence of wilting or, worse yet, slippery.
When you get them home, if they have been wrapped in plastic remove it and place them on a paper towel lined plate in the fridge. They should last 3-4 days prior to use. So now that you’ve got your nice growed up Creminis home we’re going to make a tasty appetizer where we substitute meaty strips of mushrooms for potatoes… Portobello Fries! I suggest doing like the Belgians do and serving these fries with mayo instead of ketchup. I’ve included a quick recipe here but try making your own up.
Recipe – Portobello ‘Fries’ with Sweet & Spicy Remoulade
Note: Makes approximately 20 each.
» 4 each Large portobello mushrooms, 4-5” in diameter
» ½ cup Flour
» 3 each Eggs, beaten well
» As needed Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs – preferably Progresso brand
» As needed Canola oil
» 1 cup Mayonnaise
» 1/4 cup Guldens Brown Mustard
» 2 TBS Chipotle chile puree
» 2 cloves Fresh garlic, minced
» 2 TBS Sweet pickle relish
» ¼ cup Freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
» 2 TBS Chopped chives or parsley
Before you start on the mushrooms make the aioli. Combine mayo, mustard, chipotle, garlic and relish in a small bowl and whip to combine well. Cover and refrigerate. While we wait for the flavors to meld in the aioli we start prepping our ‘fries’. First thing is to cut off cut off the stems. Next, holding each mushroom in your palm you need to remove the gills. This is done by scraping against the grain with a teaspoon. Try and support the underside of the area you are scraping with your hand so you can avoid breaking the mushroom cap.
Once all gills are removed place them on a cutting board inside facing up and trim off the thin edges around the outside of the cap so you’re left with a cap that’s pretty consistently thick (the perimeter will always be a bit thinner) Next you want to cut the mushrooms into ½” thick slices.
Next step is to bread your fries. I always use 3 paper plates for this step so I can just throw the leftover in the trash. Place the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs separately on each of the three. Next dredge all sides of the fries into the flour, then the eggs and finally the breadcrumbs. It is important that as much of the fries are coated with all three ingredients. This process isn’t something you want to undertake if you’re in a rush. I’d suggest having a nice glass of wine nearby and just taking your time to do it right. I would recommend doing these ahead of time as they can sit either at room temp or on a tray, uncovered in the fridge for 3-4 hours.
Breaded – Ready to fry
Next step is to heat your oil to 350 degrees either in a thick, heavy bottom sauce pan or preferably in a deep fryer. (I think everyone should own a decent deep fryer that they keep in a cupboard so they can just pull it out when needed. place on a sheet pan under your kitchen hood and not have to mess with maintaining the oil temp in a sauce pan).
Carefully dip the fries into the hot oil frying as many as you can at once without overcrowding the pan. After 2-3 minutes you should flip them over and cook for another 2 minutes on the second side or until they are a rich golden brown. Place them on a sheet pan and hold them in a 275-degree oven until all of them are finished. I like to place them onto a large serving platter in small ‘Lincoln log’ piles so they don’t get soggy, then sprinkle with Parmesan and parsley and your dipping aioli. Enjoy!
Cook until Golden Brown