Published on 01/08/2010 12:36pm By Tom Burfield
When Annie Somerville, executive chef at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, wants to add a special touch to her menu, one of her favorite options is mushrooms.
Filo purses stuffed with mushrooms and artichokes is one of her favorites, she said, and diners also love the grilled or roasted portabella sandwich, and they “go absolutely crazy” when she serves stuffed portabella mushroom with a mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes.
“Right now we are serving abalone, oyster and king trumpets,” she said in mid-December.
And the following week, she planned to grill squares of polenta over charcoal and serve that with an herb cream, grilled mushrooms and shaved parmesan cheese.
“It will be a really nice winter dish,” she said.
Somerville likes working with mushrooms because they are fun and exciting.
“They have great texture, really good flavor, and they’re compelling and fun to work with,” she said.
Because Greens is a vegetarian restaurant, Somerville gets to try her hand at preparing a variety of mushrooms, including portabella, crimini and the basic white variety. She likes to go beyond white mushrooms and considers the portabella a good, basic mushroom that many chefs now use.
“It has a really hardy flavor, it’s got a great texture, it makes a great sandwich, and it’s good roasted or grilled,” she said. “You can really put it to work.”
Somerville’s approach to vegetarian cooking is not to simply look for meat substitutes.
“It’s always nice to have some really, really hardy, flavorful ingredients on the menu,” she said, “and mushrooms definitely are.”
She is fond of the crimini, which she characterizes as “the white mushroom’s tan cousin” with a slightly deeper flavor.
She also likes to use the oyster variety because it has a good texture and grills and roasts nicely.
“You can grill or roast a whole cluster,” she said. “They’re very flavorful, and they have a really nice, chewy texture.”
Plain white mushrooms also can be delicious if you slice them, sauté them with olive oil, garlic or shallots, salt and pepper.
“Deglaze your pan with a little red or white wine or sherry,” she said. “They just need seasoning.”
During the fall, she made a salad that featured grilled delicata squash, little artichokes, peppers and abalone mushrooms.
“It’s fun and a good combination of flavors, colors and textures,” she said.
Other favorite mushroom dishes at Greens include stuffed portabella mushrooms, a grilled mushroom sandwich with melted cheese and wild mushroom ravioli.
“And anytime we have mushrooms on pizza, people love it,” Somerville said.
Read the full story at ThePacker.com.