An extremely large, dark brown mushroom
that is simply the fully mature form of the crimino, which in turn is a
variation of the common cultivated white mushroom. The name "portobello" began
to be used in the 1980s as a brilliant marketing ploy to popularize an
unglamorous mushroom that, more often than not, had to be disposed of because
growers couldn't sell them. The portobello mushroom, which can easily measure 6
inches in diameter, has an open, flat cap. Because it's the elder of the
species, the portobello's gills are fully exposed, which means that some of the
mushroom's moisture has evaporated. The reduced moisture concentrates and
enriches the flavor and creates a dense, meaty texture. Portobellos can be found
in gourmet produce markets as well as many supermarkets. Their stems are very
woody and should be removed (but saved for soups, stocks, etc.). The caps can be
used chopped, as with most mushrooms, but the portobello is much more dramatic
used whole. It's particularly popular grilled and used in a sandwich, or cut
into thick slices for a salad or entrée.
6 T. extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 C. dry breadcrumbs
salt and pepper, to taste
3 lbs. portobello mushrooms, stemmed
2 small onions, chopped
1 (14 1/2 oz.) + 1 (28 oz.) can chopped tomatoes
12 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1/3 C. roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
1 1/4 C. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Combine 4 tablespoons of the olive oil with two thirds of the garlic, all of the
breadcrumbs and salt and pepper to taste.
Wipe the mushroom caps with a damp cloth to remove any dirt. Place the caps
gill-side up in a large roasting pan and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
Top with the breadcrumb mixture.
Roast for 20 minutes, until the mushrooms are very soft and the breadcrumbs have
browned. When done, let cool.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy stock
pot. Add the onions and saute for about 10 minutes, until soft. When they're
almost done, add the remaining garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add the
tomatoes with the juice from the 28-ounce can (discard the rest of the juice).
Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until
most of the liquid has reduced. Season with salt and pepper.
Distribute half of the sauce between a deep 13 x 9 inch pan and a 8 x 8 inch
pan. Spread the sauce around the bottom of the pans, then cover with the
portobello, cutting some mushrooms in half to fit in the pans if need be. Top
loosely with the mozzarella slices -- you won't have enough for the slices to
completely cover the top, so space them out over the mushrooms -- half of the
basil and the remaining sauce. Top with the Parmesan.
Bake in a 350°F. oven for about 25 minutes, until hot, then broil for 5 to 10
minutes, until the top is bubbly hot and slightly browned.
Let rest a few minutes before serving. Garnish with the remaining basil.
Serves 10 to 12.