Sometimes I miss a good, meaty sandwich. In fact, one of the hardest things about becoming pescaterian (I don’t eat meat, except for fish and shellfish) has been giving up juicy, Philly cheesesteaks and giant, pastrami reubens. My options have been limited to grilled cheese, tuna salad, and PB&J. Did I mention grilled cheese? I complained to my friend Amanda about my sandwich funk.
Amanda: “What about a portabella sandwich?”
Me: “Nope, don’t do fungus.”
Amanda: “Girrrl, I can make portabellas taste like steak. Mix up a really good marinade and grill ‘em. Delicious.”
I’ve always wanted to like mushrooms, but the texture is just so weird. I decided to take Amanda’s advice and give them another go, because #1 – I was growing tired of my limited sandwich options and #2 – I’m definitely not a girl who refuses to try something again. Shortly after our mushroom talk, Jeff (who also detests mushrooms) and I were on a road trip and we stopped for lunch in Knoxville, TN at a place called The Tomato Head. I ordered the “Lucy,” a sandwich with roasted portabello and onions, hummus, carrot, spinach and walnuts. It was incredible. The mushrooms were sliced thin and full of flavor. They weren’t rubbery and didn’t taste like dirt, like all the mushrooms I’d had in the past. In fact, the texture reminded me of shaved roast beef and inspired me to try making something similar at home.
If mushroom texture freaks you out a little too, I recommend using a mandolin slicer for this recipe. I have a love/hate relationship with mine. It is the bomb for slicing potatoes for chips or shaving vegetables for salads, but Jeff and I have both sliced our fingers on it. Bad. Not go to the ER and get stitches bad, but bad enough that I start sweating and have serious anxiety every time I use it.
This by no means, is a quick lunch recipe. I like to call it a Saturday afternoon sandwich. I added caramelized onions, banana peppers and jalapeños for a sweet and spicy combo, and bought some really great bread from Whole Foods, made by a local baker, Blue Dog Bakery & Cafe. This sandwich is so yummy, and it fulfilled my need for a sloppy, melty, meaty sandwich without the meat. Now to get that ‘shroom hatin’ husband of mine to try it…
Portabella Mushroom Melt (Serves 2)
1 tbsp butter
1 garlic clove, chopped
Small yellow onion (sliced thin)
2 tbsp sliced banana peppers (I used the jarred, pickled kind)
1 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced and seeds removed (or 1-2 tbsp jarred pickled kind)
2-3 large portabello mushroom caps, stems removed and sliced 1/8″ or so (see image above)
1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tbsp milk
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Your choice of cheese (I used Trader Joe’s New Zealand white sharp cheddar)
1 small carrot, cut into matchstick pieces
Handful of leafy greens (I used arugula. Ooh…I bet sprouts would be delicious too!)
2 rolls (crusty, baguette type is best)
Whisk together garlic, sugar, worcestershire and soy sauce in a bowl and set aside. Melt butter in a large skillet on low heat and add onion, banana peppers and jalapeno. Saute for 1-2 minutes adding salt and pepper. Add the bowl of sauce, (keep the heat on low), and cook covered for about 15 min, stirring occasionally until vegetables are caramelized. Uncover, add milk and stir in the sliced mushrooms. Saute for a few minutes or until the mushrooms have cooked down and softened. Turn the heat up a little, add the cheese and cover again until cheese is melted. Spread dijon mustard on bread, add mushroom mixture, and top with carrots and greens.