Third Course – “Salad”
This was, I think, the favorite of the evening. It was mine at least. I love mushrooms and I figured the earthy, meaty flavors would find some common ground with chocolate. The rest of the dish just kind of fell together.
Portobello caps marinated in red wine and chocolate. Broil them to gain a little caramelizing and cook the mushroom through. It would also make for a nice crust. Slicing the mushroom would reveal a pale flesh to offset the broiled skin.
I read about a balsamic vinaigrette that used cacao nibs on an arugula salad, and that sounded good plus balsamic and mushrooms are a great pair. However, the mushroom and marinade was rich and warming… so, I decided to go in a brighter and more bracing direction especially since it was so early on in the dinner. I kept the cacao nibs, but changed the acid to lemon juice and tossed in some mint to add a garden fresh quality.
Broiled Portobello Salad
2-3 Portobello Mushroom Caps
1 Cup Red Wine (California Zinfandel or Australian Shiraz)
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cacao Powder
2 T Turbinado Sugar
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 cup Olive Oil
3 T Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
1 T Shallots, minced
2 tsp Fresh Mint, chopped
2 tsp Cacao Nibs
Salt and Pepper
First, you want to get the mushrooms marinating. In a mortar, I added the salt, sugar, and cacao powder. Grind this around to mix and break up the larger crystals of sugar and salt, scoop down the sides and bottom with a spoon as needed. When it is all roughly the same consistency, scoop out into another bowel then add the wine. Stir it up well until the powder has dissolved.
During the trials for this, I used an Italian red wine which, on its own, had a briny acidity and tart red berry fruit flavor. The resulting marinade was really salty and actually, pretty gross. I used it anyway and the mushrooms turned out great. However, I decided for a better balance a fruitier, plusher style of red wine was needed. On the night of the dinner, I opted for a Rosenblum Zinfandell and while the marinade was still quite salty, it was much more pleasant.
Pour marinade into a gallon sized plastic bag, add cleaned portobello caps, and seal the bag. Slosh the bag lightly to ensure the mushrooms are well saturated, but not so much that they break apart. Refrigerate for about 3 hours.
Preheat the broiler. Remove the mushrooms from the marinade and place in a roasting pan. When the broiler is nice and hot, toss the mushrooms in. Broil for 10 – 15 minutes turning every 2-3 minutes for even browning.
While the portobellos are cooking, start the vinaigrette. Mince the shallots, chop the mint, lightly chop cacao nibs (if they are large), and juice the lemon.
In a medium bowl, add it all plus salt and pepper to taste. Whisk it around a little then add the oil and whisk it to form an emulsion. Taste and adjust seasoning adding more lemon juice, mint, and/or salt pepper, if you like.
After the mushrooms are done, let them rest a few minutes before slicing. Then with a sharp knife gently slice about 1/4 inch thick strips across the mushroom.
I allotted about 1/2 of a mushroom cap per serving and arranged each strip overlapping the last and so on. Then spoon the vinaigrette down the center of the mushroom cascade.