Today’s inspirational, fantastic fantastical virtual-world recipe sent me onto an extended hike down memory lane when I first discovered it in my Chef’s Guild recipe list a couple of years ago. See, back when I was a kid, my grandparents had a habit of dragging me to go visit the extended family scattered up and down both sides of the German-French border on weekends.
Now that I’m old enough to actually enjoy all of the nature- and food-related things those regions have to offer, I absolutely love every visit to that area. Back then however, these trips with a car full of “old people” only meant… well, “more old people” – I bet you all remember how anyone past 20 basically counted as “Fossil” when you were 10… Anyways, as you can probably imagine, I snuck out and went on my own adventures as soon as the grown up’s attention was focused elsewhere! Sometimes though, the folks went along the same paths through fields and forests and I soon learned that “people” never fully grow up after all. I remember the usually so calm and collected senior ladies of my family hiking up their skirts at the sight of a forest meadow, recently vacated by the wild-herb grazing bovine residents of the area, helping each other over the fence and starting to turn over dried cowpies, looking for mushrooms beneath and along the treeline, giggling like little girls all the while. One day, we discovered mushrooms of the “but you told me never to eat stuff that’s bigger than my head!” variety, known to me today as Portobello Mushrooms. True to the “everything we’ve found today”-salad tradition of the house, we combined them with a few handfuls of freshly foraged chestnuts and herbs, and topped them off with the “happy” eggs nicked from the not-so-happy-about-that chickens next door. Good Times! Good times I had all but forgotten until a silly little virtual recipe brought portobellos back to the forefront of my mind! Well, a combination of two recipes, actually…
Luckily enough, I was actually able to dig up a couple of saucer-sized portobellos on market day a couple of days later – and I’ve been making this one, with a few tweaks, on a very regular basis during portobello season ever since~!
For 4 Servings as a starter / 2 serious mains, you’ll need…
The Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
4 Portobello Mushrooms
4 Large, organic “Happy” Eggs
200g Precooked/Roasted and shelled Chestnuts, thinly sliced
200g Smoky Bacon Cubes – a wonderful beef, wild boar or venison sausage works deliciously well too~
100-150g/4 Thick Slices of Gruyère Cheese – any punchy mountain/cave ripened cheese that makes your knees buckle at the thought will do nicely, but I usually stick to the “original” ingredient~
Salt, Pepper and freshly grated Nutmeg
2-3 Sprigs of Flatleaf Parsley, finely chopped
Opt: 1 Glug of White Port or Maple Syrup to deglaze the pan
1) Place the portobellos, carefully stemmed and cleaned, onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. In case they wobble from side to side a bit, consider evening out a “standing surface” on the top since, once everything is stacked up inside, “wobbly” quickly turns into “toppling”. Soft-dried apple rings work wonders as stabilizers as well – please don’t ask me how I know. One plus one simply equals three sometimes.
2) Just as a side-note: Of course I make this with 2 large pans and a Crème Brûlée torch under normal circumstances, the “oven-version” simply works that much faster, easier, and when it comes to the cheese on top: crispier! Anywhoo…
3) Pop the bacon cubes into a wide, heavy-based pan and turn the heat to medium-high.
4) Once the fat starts oozing out into little pools around the cubes, add the chestnuts and give them a nice and even sear on all sides.
5) Feel free to remove the bacon if it’s taking on too much color and crisp in the meantime.
6) Once the chestnuts start to develop deliciously golden-brown edges, generously season the lot with salt, freshly cracked pepper and nutmeg, add the parsley, give everything a good toss to distribute the new additions throughout the mix and have a taste.
7) Switch gears to the salad while that’s in progress~
8) Decide whether you want to with or without the port or syrup and take the appropriate steps.
9) Have another taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
10) Evenly distribute the filling into the portobellos and top off the piles with the grated/sliced cheese.
11) Slide the tray into the oven and grill the lot until the cheese melts and turns golden.
12) Fry up the eggs sunny-side-up in a bit of butter in the meantime.
13) Retrieve the portobellos and top each one off with an egg – you could also pop in the egg beneath the cheese, depending on how you prefer your egg. For me, an undisturbed, golden yolk is sacred, so nothing but salt and maaaaybe some pepper goes on top!
1 Shallot, very finely diced
1 Tbsp Honey
2 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
2 Tbsp Herbed Dijon Mustard or Fig Mustard and a pinch of Herbes de Provence
3 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
1 Tsp Herbes de Provence
A very generous pinch each of herbed sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
1) Add all of the above to a small mixig bowl and have at it with a whisk until everything is well combined.
2) Give the dressing a quick taste-and-adjust routine along with a grape and/or a piece of chestnut for a more accurate decision. Adjust – or not – the seasoning if necessary.
300g Mixed Lettuce Leaves – make sure there’s something bitter in it like arugula or lollo rosso
100g/1 small precooked Beetroot, julienned
200g White or Rosé Grapes, halved
1 Bunch of Chives, very finely sliced into ringlets
½ Bunch of Parsley, finely chopped
2-3 Sprigs of Lovage, finely chopped – if you can’t get your hands on the fresh leaves, add a pinch of dried leaves to the dressing instead
1) Divvy up all of the above onto your plates – add the beets and grapes last for eye-candy reasons~
2) As soon as your stuffed mushrooms leave the confines of your oven, drizzle the salad heaps with the dressing and carefully nestle the egg-topped portobellos into their final restng place~