Mini bella mushrooms are portobella mushrooms that haven't grown up yet. Unlike white button mushrooms, the gills are usually open and very dark brown when you buy mini bellas. The cap is dark brown, as well. When you cook portobella mushrooms, they give off a dark brown liquid. Mini bellas cook faster than full-size portobellas because they're smaller. Use the mini bellas as an appetizer, side dish or in a portobella slider.
Wipe the mini bellas off with a soft cloth or rinse them briefly in water and pat dry. before cooking. You could peel them, but you don't have to. You could also remove the gills by scraping them out with a spoon, but it's not critical. Cook until the inside is slightly soft and a darker color than raw. The texture of raw mini bellas is chewier than button mushrooms, but they still may be used uncooked.
The classic steakhouse accompaniment is mushrooms. Saute whole mini bellas in butter for three to five minutes until cooked through. Turn over halfway. Fill the cap with a slice of compound butter -- butter that has been blended with garlic, shallots or scallions and herbs -- and set it on the steak or chop. The butter melts in the cap and flavors the meat, as well. If you're trying to cut back on fat, spray a cooking pan with cooking oil and forget the butter. Slice the mushrooms if you're in a hurry.
Stuffed to the Gills
Stuffing mini bella mushrooms turns them from a vegetable side dish to gourmet treat. Mini bellas are bigger and flatter than white button mushrooms, so they're ideal for stuffing. Serve one as an appetizer and three as the main entrée. Remove the stems and gills so you have more room to stuff. Put the mushroom cap side down on a baking dish. You might have to cut a very narrow slice off the cap so it doesn't wobble. Stuff the cap with your choice of cooked ground meat, chopped vegetables or a cheese and bread crumbs. Bake or grill until the mushroom is cooked.
Broiling brings out the meaty flavor of these portobella babies. Watch them closely because they cook quickly under such high heat. Place 4 to 5 inches from the broiler for three to four minutes. Turn over halfway through the broiling time. Remove the stems, because they'll burn before the rest of the mushroom is cooked. Basting with oil, an oil and vinegar based salad dressing or butter adds flavor, but isn't required.
Put that extra grill space to work while you're grilling steak, burgers or chops. Brush the mini bellas with oil, or put the oil on your hands and then rub the mushrooms with your hand. Amp up the flavor by sprinkling the mushrooms with herbs before grilling. Small bellas -- less than 1 inch in diameter -- should be put on skewers or in a grilling basket, while larger bellas -- 2 inches or more in diameter -- can go directly on the grill.
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