Saturday, April 7, 2007

Prawn Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms With Crisp Comte Cheese Caps

My posts are few and far between these days as I re-think eating habits and the incorporating of foods that make for a healthier eating lifestyle.

For the past few weeks I've cut all meats and a goodly portion of dairy products from my (and, subsequently, Mr CC's) diet. Opting for fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead. And, interestingly enough, I've been quite happy, have not felt deprived, and have lost 5 of those extremely-hard-to-lose last 10 pounds that I've been packing since Thanksgiving.

I didn't set out to do this. When our vegan son Jeffrey was here, I cooked entirely vegan for all of us because it was just too much hassle to do otherwise. After he left I discovered that I really liked eating fruits, veggies and grains and didn't miss the meat and dairy that had started feeling heavier and harder for me to digest.

So, here I am, on the cusp of change, thinking, thinking, thinking of ways to be creative and inventive without using the meat and dairy I've spent a lifetime cooking with.

Then I saw these US wild-caught prawns and, for the moment, meatless went careening 'round the corner. Add to that a chunk of Comte cheese that had been sitting idly in the fridge and cheeseless, joining meatless, zoomed right over a cliff.

I'm still on my food re-assessment kick, don't get me wrong. Expect to see some changes coming out of my newly-tiled kitchen. But a little seafood and a smidge of cheese isn't what I consider to be unhealthy eating. Not by a long shot.

Prawn Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms With Crisp Comte Cheese Crisps
Christine's Original Recipe
2 large, deeply cupped portobello mushrooms, stems removed, caps brushed clean
olive oil spray for the baking sheet
1 1/2 cups hard, salty cheese, such as Comte or parmesan-reggiano, coarsely grated
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
10 large prawns (preferably wild-caught in the US), peeled and de-veined
juice of 1/2 of a large orange
1-2 tablespoons golden balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh basil, thinly sliced (chiffonade)
good olive oil for the saute skillet
Good coarse sea salt (I used Fleur de Sel de Guerande)
freshly ground black pepper (I use Tellicherry)

Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray. Place the portobellos on the sheet, smooth side down, and roast in a 350-degree oven for about 25 minutes.
Turn the portobellos over in the last 10 minutes of roasting to allow them to drain of liquid. Keep warm.
Set a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Do not add oil.
When the pan is hot, place about 3 tablespoons each (very approximate) of cheese in small piles in the pan. Don't crowd.
Allow the cheese to melt and bubble and form circles about 2 inches in diameter (bigger if you wish). When you can lift the edge of a circle with a spatula, start working around the edges until the melted cheese can be lifted and turned over. Do that, and melt the other side of each round taking care to not let the cheese or the weeping oil burn.

IMPORTANT: As the Comte cheese melts, it will weep oil. Wipe the excess from the pan with each addition of cheese.
Be very careful to not allow the cheese fat to burn in the pan as this will impart a nasty flavor to the finished crisps.

Remove the cheese crisps to a paper towel to drain. Repeat until all the cheese is used. You should get about eight crisps from this amount of grated cheese.

This next series of steps is to be done very quickly so have the rest of the ingredients prepped and close at hand.
Heat a small amount of olive oil in another cast iron skillet over medium heat.
Reserving 4 of the prawns, chop the remaining 6 prawns into small pieces.
When the pan is ready, add the minced garlic and stir until soft and aromatic, about 1 minute.
Add the chopped prawns and saute, stirring, until they turn pink, about 1 minute.
Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Immediately remove the garlic and prawns to a plate and return the pan to the heat.
Place the 4 reserved prawns in the pan and quickly sear until pink and barely cooked through, about 1 minute.
Add the orange juice and golden balsamic vinegar to the pan and allow to boil for about 1 minute. The liquid will thicken and the large prawns will finish cooking. Turn them during this time so they become coated with the glaze.
Remove the prawns from the pan.
Sprinkle the basil into the pan and stir briefly. Remove the pan from the heat.

To assemble:
Place a portobello mushroom, round side down, on a plate.
Spoon 1/2 of the chopped prawns into the mushroom cup.
Place 2 of the large, sauteed prawns over the chopped ones and drizzle 1/2 of the glaze with basil over it all.
Top with a cheese crisp.

Cook's Notes:
I can't stress enough the importance of not allowing the cheese oil to burn. If it does, a very nasty flavor will imbue rest of the crisps and it's very off-putting.
If I were to make this again, I might spoon the chopped prawn saute into the mushroom caps, top them with a grated cheese such as gruyere, place them in the oven long enough for the cheese to melt then continue with the rest of the steps.
I liked the cheese crisps but, if I were to do this again, I probably would use parmesan-reggiano instead. Why? I just like it better.

It's time once again for Weekend Herb Blogging, an event where food bloggers around the world post recipes featuring herbs and plants. Hosted this week by Ahn at her lovely blog Food Lover's Journey, this event was begun almost 2 years ago by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. If you're not familiar with WHB, click here to read how to join in the fun. Then check in with Ahn, from the land down under, on Monday for her international round-up.

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