THE CHEF: MELISSA RODRIGUEZ
Her Restaurants: Mel’s, in New York City; Al Coro and Discolo, both soon to open, also in Manhattan
What She’s Known For: Italian cooking with finesse. Technical command in the service of inviting flavor combinations.
YOU COULD THINK OF this dish as stuffed-mushroom adjacent, but it’s leaner, brighter and works as a meal (along with a salad, perhaps). In her second Slow Food Fast recipe, Melissa Rodriguez grills big, frilly maitakes and dresses them with the classic Italian-style stuffed-mushroom elements—bread, onions, garlic, herbs—plus a few surprises.
While any large mushroom will work here, Ms. Rodriguez likes the way maitakes turn tender and meaty within as the edges crisp. They take well to her sharp vinaigrette made with rendered bits of soppressata. Spoon it on as soon as the mushrooms come off the grill and they’ll drink it up. Olive-oil-fried croutons lend texture, and marjoram provides a fresh, aromatic note.
“I’d say the number one mistake cooks make is undercooking the mushroom,” said Ms. Rodriguez. “These should move around on the grill so they get really high and then moderate heat.”
This recipe provides a nice snapshot of the cooking the chef is doing at her new restaurant Mel’s: classic Italian flavors delivered in unexpected ways. It also reflects the way Ms. Rodriguez cooks at home. “I eat a lot of vegetables accented with a bit of meat,” she said. “The soppressata brings a ton of flavor.”
—Kitty Greenwald is a chef, food writer and the co-author of ‘Slow Fires’ (Clarkson Potter)
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While any large mushroom will work here, chef Melissa Rodriguez likes the way maitakes turn tender and meaty within as the edges crisp. They take well to her sharp vinaigrette made with rendered bits of soppressata.
- 2½ pounds maitake mushrooms
- 7 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small shallot, minced
- ¼ cup diced soppressata
- 1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup coarsely torn croutons from sourdough or other rustic bread
- 2 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves
- Preheat a grill to high heat. Toss mushrooms in 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt. Grill mushrooms over medium-high heat until browned and very crisp on all sides, about 5 minutes. Move mushrooms to medium heat and continue cooking until centers are tender and warm, about 10 minutes more.
- Make the dressing: In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, sauté shallots with 2 tablespoons olive oil until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add soppressata and cook until it browns at edges and renders its fat, 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in vinegar to deglaze pan, scraping up all browned bits. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Make the croutons: In a second sauté pan over medium heat, sweat chopped garlic in 3 tablespoons olive oil for 1 minute. Add croutons and cook until golden brown on all sides, 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and add marjoram. Toss to combine and remove pan from heat. Transfer herbed croutons to a paper towel.
- To serve, arrange mushrooms on 4 plates and spoon warm dressing over top. Scatter herbed croutons over top and serve immediately, with a radicchio or other leafy salad on the side.
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