Thursday, February 18, 2016

Portobello Caps Stuffed with Grass-fed Beef and Potatoes

The snowy weather of February seems to have brought out a flurry of food articles referencing "meat and potato dishes."  I'm not sure if the phrase "comfort food" was worn out during January, but here's another meat and potatoes dish, but this one features the perfect trifecta of meat, potatoes, and mushrooms.
Beef stroganoff, beef Bourgignon, nuea pad num mon Hoi; from Europe to Indonesia the world celebrates the marriage of mushrooms and beef.
Each time I open a package of grass-fed beef from North Woods Ranch, it's like opening up a package full of possibilities.  In this case, I thought of a hearty mushroom/potato/beef dish that wasn't stewed down into oblivion.
Grass-Fed Scottish Beef from North Woods Ranch
But what about a shepherd's pie?  Could you make a shepherd's pie for one?  Thinking of another dish, I thought about stuffed peppers and substituting a large portobello cap for the pepper.

And from that leap-frogging thought process, I came to this recipe.  Clean the stems and gills from four portobellos (one for each person.)  To up the umami-packed mushroom quotient, I re-hydrated a half-ounce of dried porcini mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes.  In that time I peeled and diced two large floury potatoes, then put them in a pot of water to boil.  Next, I sauteed the beef in a little bit of lard until it was nearly cooked through, then added one medium onion to saute, along with the now softened porcinis.  As the onions cooked down I put the mushrooms on a greased sheet tray, gill side up, and baked in a 375 F oven for 10 minutes to soften and get the juices running.
Dried Porcini's Re-hydrating
When the onion was softened, I turned off the heat and added two minced garlic cloves, a half teaspoon of ground black pepper, and one-quarter teaspoon of dried thyme.  Then I packed the meat/onion mixture into the cleaned portobello tops.  I mashed the (now tender potatoes) with butter and milk, seasoning them with a bit of salt, pepper, and garlic.
 
Each mushroom received a dollop of the mashed potatoes right on top of the meat mixture.  I spread the mound of potatoes down the sides to connect with the edge of the mushroom.  Almost like a savory, beefy baked Alaska! 
Next the mushrooms returned to the oven and baked at 375 F for 15 minutes.  As the meat was fully cooked, the time in the oven is to allow the flavors to meld and the potatoes to begin to get brown and crusty on top.  If the potatoes aren't browning, add a pat of butter to the top of each potato/mushroom cap.
An optional, but very tasty step is to strain the porcini's soaking liquid into a small sauce pan and let it reduce at a medium simmer for the 15 minutes the mushrooms are finishing up in the oven.  It makes for a very tasty gravy!

Recipe at a Glance:
To Serve Four
1 lb North Woods Ranch Ground Beef
4 large portobello mushroom caps
2 large russet potatoes (about 1.5 lbs)
1 medium white onion
.5 oz dried porcini mushrooms
2 tbsp butter
1/2 C whole milk or buttermilk
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 minced garlic clove
Salt
Pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Bring a small saucepot of water to a boil.  When the water boils add the porcini mushrooms and let soak for 30 minutes, turning off the heat.  Put the potatoes into a pot with water and bring to a boil.  When the potatoes begin to boil, turn the heat down to medium.

Crumble the beef into a greased skillet over medium high heat.  Stir the beef, breaking up any lumps.  When the beef is nearly cooked through, add one chopped onion and the re-hydrated, chopped porcini mushrooms.  Cook for 4-5 more minutes, until the onion begins to soften.  Season with salt, pepper, and thyme.  Reserve the porcini soaking liquid.

Scrape out the gills of the mushrooms and pop out the stem.  Place them on a greased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  While the mushrooms are baking, mash the softened potatoes with the butter, milk, salt, pepper, and the minced garlic.

Bring the mushrooms out of the oven, then fill the caps with the onion/beef mixture.  Top each mushroom with a quarter of the mashed potatoes, spreading the mashed potatoes towards the edge of the mushroom caps.  Bake for 15 minutes at 375.  Strain and reduce the porcini mushroom soaking liquid in a small sauce pan, seasoning with salt and pepper at the end.

Serve the baked mushroom caps with a splash of the porcini gravy.