Friday, May 21, 2010

Portobello Sandwich

I once ate wild mushrooms in an old country estate in the center of France. The house sat at the top of a hill, exposed on all four sides and filled top to bottom with old books, antiques and threadbare sofas. I was fifteen and spending a few weeks abroad with a French family who were friends of friends. This was an uncles house and everyone was coming together for a family weekend in the country.

One cloudless morning, while their daughter Emily and I swam in their mediterranean blue swimming pool, the women went into the woods to forage mushrooms. I'm not sure why we didn't go with them, perhaps the location of the mushrooms was so top secret that not even the children were invited or it may have been that swimming just sounded better to a couple of fifteen year olds. Regardless, I now wish I had gone along.

The first I saw of the mushrooms, which I believe were mostly chanterelles, was in a skillet in their rustic kitchen, being sauteed with gobs of fresh butter and garlic. There was a buzz of excitement. This was clearly something they didn't do all the time and their trip had been profitable.

We sat down in the grand dining room for a lunch of chanterelles, salad, fresh baguettes and red wine. A table cloth had been laid, there were flowers from the garden, good china and polished silverware to assist. The mushrooms made you want to die a little, in the French way, they were so good. Tender, earthy and sweet. And if I recall correctly, I washed it down with a rather large glass of red wine.

I will never forget that meal.

Mushrooms are magical and not just in the trippy way. Dr. Andrew Weil believes they grow with lunar rays rather than solar and they fall somewhere between plant and animal. And because some of them can kill its best not to forage without some serious training first.

Last night the weather was beautiful so I scrambled to make portobello sandwiches to take to the river for dinner. They were not even comparable to the chanterelles I had years ago but delicious nonetheless and a good substitute for meat if you're looking for one.

Portobello Sandwiches (for two)
2 portobello mushrooms
roasted red peppers
olive oil
salt + pepper
1 garlic clove sliced in half
pain de compagne

Brush any dirt off the mushrooms with a paper towel. Coat them each in about 1 tbs. olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place them top side up under the broiler (I used my toaster oven) for about 8 minutes or until they are cooked through turning once. If they dry out a little on top spoon a little more olive oil on top. Cut four slices of fresh bread and rub it lightly on one side with the garlic (if the bread is a day old you can toast it). Spread humus on all four slices and lay a few pieces of roasted red pepper on two. Slice the portobellos in half and lay them on top of the peppers. Sprinkle a little salt and fresh ground pepper on top and sandwich with the other slices of humus bread.

Strawberry Salad
6 leaves red leaf lettuce
6 strawberries
goat cheese
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
fresh ground pepper

Wash, dry and tear the lettuce. Put in a bowl. Slice the strawberries and crumble about two tablespoons of goat cheese on top. Give the salad a splash of balsamic and olive oil and grind some freshly ground pepper on top. Spinach would be good with this too.


  1. Wonderful story and a yummy looking recipe...but dinner at the river? That would be a really great photo, I bet!

  2. Love this story. :-) How fun to have dinner at the river. You've inspired me! I think I'll have dinner at my creek. :-)

  3. lovely story!! special meals like that are sacred to me. portobello sandwiches are my favorite, and i love that you used hummus too!

  4. i just started liking mushrooms, and this looks so good!