Several years ago, in a supermarket somewhere in upstate New York, someone served me a completely meat-free hamburger. It was a Portobello mushroom burger and, though it contained no beef whatsoever, it was meaty and substantial, with a hefty taste that could rival that of any beef.
That’s because these dark-brown mushrooms have a concentrated flavor, much of their moisture having evaporated by the time they’re picked. They grow as large as six inches in diameter, which makes them a perfect fit for a hamburger bun.
Now that these mushrooms seem to be widely available in Manila’s supermarkets, I’ve recreated the Portobello burger I tasted a long time ago, somewhere in the hinterlands of upstate New York. These burgers are perfect for vegetarians, but even meat eaters will find them juicy and delectable.
Portobello Mushroom Burger
Makes 4 servings
Remove the stems from the Portobello mushrooms (see tips). Wash mushrooms well, then pat dry with paper towels.
In a bowl, combine garlic, the finely chopped onion, sugar, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Marinate mushrooms in the mixture for five to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat butter in a shallow pan and sauté onion rounds over low heat. Leave them in the pan over low heat while mushrooms are marinating, then remove them from the pan and set aside.
To cook: Brush a grill pan or nonstick pan with vegetable oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Remove the mushrooms from the marinade. Grill the mushrooms for around 5 minutes on each side or until bite-tender. Season with salt and pepper while grilling.
Toast the hamburger buns then line them with lettuce leaves and a slice of the prepared onion rounds. Arrange a mushroom on each bun. Serve immediately.
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The stems of Portobello mushrooms are too tough to eat, but you can simmer them to flavor soups and stocks.
When you grill the mushrooms, they could turn very dark. This could be because of their gills and because of the sugar-vinegar marinade.
Before using the lettuce leaves, wash them well and pat dry with paper towels to remove bacteria and germs.
If desired, butter the hamburger buns before toasting.