Twice as Tasty

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

Marinating dense portobellos in red wine and orange juice and then grilling builds on their rich, earthy flavor

By Julie Laing
Photo by Julie Laing.

Before summer vegetables start to ripen in the garden, I get a jump-start on the grilling season with one of my favorite grilled vegetables that I don’t grow: mushrooms. Big, meaty portobello mushrooms are ideal for cooking on hot grates. They’re large enough that you can turn them easily without dropping them through the slats, and they soak up marinade and smoky flavor.

You can grill more delicate mushrooms too, including foraged morels, but they need more cautious handling and prefer little or no seasoning, added toward the end of the cooking time. In contrast, portobellos have such a strong flavor and firm texture that they can sit in a marinade for up to an hour. Cremini mushrooms, which are just baby portobellos, also take marinade well but need more management on the grill because of their size.

Even when I’m letting portobello mushrooms soak up marinade, I like to keep it simple. A blend of red wine and orange juice infuses that winning combination of tart and sweet. For a nonalcoholic version, use up to 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar diluted in 3/4 cup of water or Homemade Vegetable Stock. Before I can start pinching leaves from my basil plants, I chop up sorrel as the marinade’s fresh herb.

If it takes no pressure to pierce the raw mushroom stems with a fork, it’s fine to leave them intact, especially if you’ll be serving the mushrooms on their own, perhaps over a bed of greens or sliced and drizzled with a creamy sauce. The dense stems can be woody and fibrous, so you might prefer to slice them off and set them aside for your next batch of stock. I also remove the stems if I’ll be sandwiching the mushrooms in a bun like a burger or stuffing them with grilled onions and garlic, arugula and cheese.

I usually leave in the dark gills when I’m grilling portobellos, especially ones that soaked up a dark marinade. The gills’ color will leach into surrounding foods, so some people choose to pry them out with the tip of a spoon before marinating and grilling.

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

Serves 6

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup sunflower oil

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

6 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed

In a small liquid measuring cup, combine the wine, oil, juice and basil, stirring until well blended. Pour a little of this marinade in a 9-by-13 inch baking pan, place the mushrooms on it gill side up and pour the rest over the top. Let sit at room temperature for one hour, flipping the mushrooms occasionally.

Place the mushrooms gill side down on a medium-hot grill. Cover the grill, open the vents and cook the mushrooms for three to four minutes, until the gills begin to release their juices. Flip the mushrooms and grill, covered, for an additional three to four minutes, until just firm to the touch on top.

Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.