Grilled mushrooms are a rare treat. Sure, store-bought portobellos are common enough, and they work fine, but when you get your hands on a nicer mushroom, like porcini, now that’s something special.
Whatever mushroom you grill, you need it to be very firm for this to work right. King trumpet mushrooms work well, as do lobster mushrooms, really big chanterelles, other boletes, the caps of big agaricus like the Prince, or maybe a really large hedgehog. Cross sections of hen of the woods grill well, too.
Roaring high heat is the key. I get my grill up to 500°F. You could roast them in an oven at that temperature, too. Lay the mushrooms down on the cut side and don’t move them for a long while — you want those pretty grill marks. And only cook on one side, with the grill cover down. They’ll cook through, don’t worry.
I know this plate looks baroque, but it’s not. I grilled some Sierra Nevada wild onions I found alongside the porcini, added a little lemon zest and fresh oregano from the garden, and dotted the plate with preserved garlic. That garlic is amazing, by the way. I got the idea from my friend Paul Virant’s book, The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux.
It’s not important to exactly replicate this dish. What’s important is to have a few things on the plate that go well with grilled mushrooms: Onions, garlic, a little lemon, something herby.
The net effect is a vegetarian’s fantasy, so good even the committed carnivore won’t care or even really notice.
Porcini, when grill-roasted like this, take on a dense, meaty texture. They smell of the forest and of that musky warmth that attracts most mammals. And they taste savory, are tender in the center yet crispy on the edges, juicy and just faintly sweet. They taste like the best mushroom you’ve ever eaten. Because they are.
- 1 pound mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt, finely ground
- Juice and zest of a lemon
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Black pepper to taste
- Get your grill hot, and make sure the grill grates are clean.
- Make sure the mushrooms are clean by wiping them with a damp paper towel and/or trimming dirty parts with a knife. You are looking for largish pieces that can stand up to the grill, so anything about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch is good. I mostly prefer thick slices of porcini, or portobello caps.
- Toss the mushrooms in oil and salt them well. Lay them cut side down on the grill and let them sear until you get good grill marks, typically about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn them over and give the mushrooms another 2 to 3 minutes. You want browning, but not dried out mushrooms.
- Move the mushrooms to a bowl and toss with a bit more olive oil, crumbled oregano leaves, lemon zest and juice, and some black pepper.