I feel bad filing this post under the ‘recipe’ tag, because it isn’t. But, after evangelizing about the merits of oven roasted ‘shrooms, and happily discovering a high quality supplier of particularly awesome ‘shrooms at my local shops, I feel compelled to share my recipe, or, borrowing a Nigellaism, my ‘enthusiastic suggestion’ for preparing mushrooms.
(As an aside, I’ve recently been reading Nigella’s ‘How to Eat’ and ‘How to Be A Domestic Goddess’ not for the recipes, but for the writing. I love her stories, and I love the warmth that emanates from her prose. Give me Nigella over some of the more lauded novelists of our generation any day of the week!).
To begin your ‘shrooming, preheat your oven to 200 degrees. You don’t really need to preheat, and, as I often make these as a super fast lunch or dinner, I often don’t have time to, but it makes good sense to get your oven heating whilst you undertake the two minutes of preparation required.
Place your mushrooms, cup side up, on a baking-paper lined tray. I would allow about 5 palm-sized mushrooms per person, but then I tend to err on the side of gluttony so you may want to revise downwards. You should also consider size when selecting your ‘shrooms at the grocery store – you want mushrooms that have enough of a cup to catch the roasting juices, so buttons and the more exotic varieties are probably out. I usually stick to medium-large field mushrooms, which seem to be the tastiest.
Remove the stem from each of your mushrooms, being sure to keep the cup intact. Now it’s time to get creative. The basic rule here is that you need salt, pepper, and a little bit of fat – butter or olive oil – to give you that rich, delicious juice. However, if you are feeling fancy and have a good supply of fresh herbs to raid, pick a couple of the following and add them to the cups along with you basic seasoning: garlic, thyme, rosemary, sage, paprika, chilli, oregano, anchovies, capers.
Put the tray of ‘shrooms in the oven, and leave them for ten minutes. I find that cooking time varies wildly with these, depending on the size and freshness of your ‘shrooms, the amount of time your oven had been preheating, and the planets rotating through your sun sign (kidding). Basically, though, what you want to see, when you open the oven door, is a wrinkly brown mushroom with a pool of dark, richly scented juice in the cup. The visual, I’ll admit, is not appealing, but it’s honest. Your ‘shrooms will, and ought to, look manky at this stage.
At this point, you can proceed to the eating, but, if you are feeling really really fancy, or you’re just showing off, add some cheese (feta, mozzarella, and parmesan are favorites) and give your ‘shrroms another 2-3 minutes so your cheese begins to bubble.
Serve with a tossed together salad, or some wilted greens, and polenta or bread to soak up the juices. So now you know – you’re only ever 20 minutes, tops, away from complete culinary satisfaction. And if that isn’t a comfort in these troubled times, I don’t know what is.