Tue Sep 30, 2014
Right now I'm suffering from a lack of vacation. Sure I've done a few long weekend outings and had time off with the family, but nothing really where I've been able to get away and remove myself from the world in a way that my brain seems to require at least once a year. I have something on the books to look forward to, but right now that can't soon enough and I've found myself reminiscing on vacations of yore to remember the feeling of escape that I'm in eager anticipation of right now. My last real getaway was to Spain over a year and half ago, and as part of my looking back, I've been awash in the fondness of all that I ate there. Mostly those meals were tapas, and I surprisingly found my favorite dishes were those that included only a few ingredients, but they came together in such a way that their centerpiece was heightened to a type of deliciousness I hadn't quite experienced before.
One example of that were these unassuming grilled mushroom caps stuffed with a green mayo that had a great herbal and garlicky flavor. I tried to recreate something similar after I got home, and am proud to say that even if these cremini mushrooms stuffed with basil and parmesan mayo are not a 100% direct copy, they're every bit as incredible as their inspiration.
When making this at home, the grilled mushroom part of the equation was a no-brainer, the more difficult question to answer was what the hell was in that amazing sauce. I knew it had a pretty strong herbal flavor that was at least faintly reminiscent of basil, and definitely garlicky. So I started building a mayo with those ingredients—fresh basil and garlic. To gain some of complexity that I also remembered, I used both parmesan and anchovies to bring in saltiness along with their other unique defining traits.
To that I added the standard components of mayo—egg yolk, lemon juice, mustard, and a little water. With the motor of my food processor running, I then drizzled in a three-to-one mixture of regular olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. Slowly, but surely, an emulsion was created and in no time I had a beautiful green mayonnaise.
I was super proud of this mayo alone, and whether the rest of the recipe worked well was of little consequence because I already created something incredibly delicious in its own right. Similar to that mayo I had back in Sevilla, this one had an upfront herbal flavor with a garlicky bite. There was great depth to it thanks to the anchovies and parmesan, which also added a mellow nutty undertone. There was a light, bright acidity and an olive oil flavor that melded well, but didn't overpower the rest of the ingredients.
The hard part was over, now all I needed to do was grill some mushrooms, something I've done countless times before. I chose creminis because they have a little more of an earthiness than white buttons that I really enjoy. To get them prepped for grilling, I brushed each mushroom of dirt, then removed the stem to create a pocket for the mayo to later rest in. Next I tossed them with olive oil in bowl and seasoned them with salt and pepper.
I placed the mushrooms over a direct medium-high fire, gill side up. I like to start them this way because you can visibly see the mushrooms start to release their moisture as a little pool of water begins to collect in the crater where the stem used to be. This lets me know they're cooking well and are ready to be flipped and then grilled an equal amount of time on the other side for an evenly tender mushroom.
Once I removed the mushrooms from the grill and let them cool slightly, I dropped a spoonful of the mayo in each cap. What I finished with was a tapas that visually almost identical to ones I've been remembering fondly lately, and they tasted every bit as delicious. The mushrooms were tender with a woodsy flavor that was contrasted by the freshness of the mayo. They were deceptively straightforward in presentation, but had a complexity without being challenging upon taste. In essence, they're just some really damn good mushroom caps, which encapsulates what I loved about my favorite tapas—simple, but incredible.
Cremini Mushrooms Stuffed with Basil and Parmesan Mayo
- Prep Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 25 Minutes
- 4 to 6 servings as a side
- For the Basil and Parmesan Mayo
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
- 2 anchovy filets
- 1 tablespoon water
- 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic (about 1 medium clove)
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- To make the basil and parmesan mayo Place egg yolk, basil, parmesan, anchovies, water, lemon juice, garlic, and mustard in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until basil is finely chopped and all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- With motor running, slowly drizzle in oils through feed tube. Season with salt to taste. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To make the mushrooms: Place mushrooms in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place mushrooms on the grill, gill side up, and cook until mushroom caps brown and start to release their moisture, 3-4 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until mushrooms are slightly soft, about 3 minutes more. Remove mushrooms to a tray, gill side up, and let cool for 3-5 minutes.
- Fill each mushroom with a spoonful of basil parmesan mayonnaise. Serve immediately.