Portobello mushrooms that taste like steak

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While staging at a restaurant in New York, the garde manger captain turned his knife on me. On it, was a dark sliver of what I presumed to be meat. I asked what it was; he told me not to ask and just trust him. "What do you think it tastes like?" he asked. I replied that it reminded me of filet mignon, which I knew it wasn't. He moved out from in front of his work station, and there was a dark, marinated portobello mushroom. He'd been messing around with the idea for family meal – due to the amount of vegetarians that were surprisingly employed at this restaurant – and he said the secret to the flavor was simple: season and marinate the mushroom just like you would a steak.

So, I present to you a great way to get a hearty steak dinner with a vegetable. This recipe is fairly quick and involves minimal work. After marinating the portobello steaks, you'll simply bake them in the marinating juices. I also add onions to the sheet pan because they caramelize and soften when cooked in the marinade.

I've found that the second key to making the mushrooms taste as meaty as possible is cooking them until they are a deep brown and have shrunken in size - it indicates that the water has cooked out, which is the enemy of a deep, rich flavor.

While the portobello steaks cook, I typically make my favorite iceberg lettuce salad - hey, it pairs excellently with steak, so these portobellos are no different.

The recipe below feeds four people, and will take you less than an hour to prepare.  

What you need

  • 4 large portobello mushrooms (about 1 pound of mushrooms total), stems removed and gills scooped out with a spoon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 large sweet onion (optional), chopped into 1/2-inch thick rings

How you do it

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together garlic, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and black pepper. 

With stems and gills removed, place portobello mushrooms in a sheet pan lined with foil and pour marinade over the mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature, then use a spatula to flip the mushrooms and allow to the other side to marinate for 10 more minutes.

Next, arrange mushrooms so that they're bottom-side up and surround mushrooms with onion rings, if using. Then, pour marinade over the top of the mushrooms.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until all of the marinating liquid has evaporated and the tops of the mushrooms are a deep brown. 

Allow mushrooms to rest for at least three minutes before thinly slicing and serving immediately over or with a salad or your choice of side.

Leftovers will last up to three days stored in the refrigerator, and can be incorporated into pasta dishes, salads or even breakfast food, like omelets or frittatas.