THE CHEF: MELISSA RODRIGUEZ
Her restaurants: Mel’s, in New York City; Al Coro and Discolo, both opening soon, also in Manhattan
What she is known for: Italian cuisine with finesse. Technical mastery at the service of inviting flavor combinations.
YOU CAN THINK this dish as stuffed mushroom on the side, but it’s leaner, brighter, and works as a meal (along with a salad, maybe). In her second Slow Food Fast recipe, Melissa Rodriguez grills big, shaggy maitakes and dresses them with the classic Italian stuffed mushroom elements — bread, onions, garlic, herbs — plus a few surprises.
While any great mushroom will work here, Ms. Rodriguez likes the way maitakes get soft and meaty inside while the edges get crispy. They taste great for her tart vinaigrette made with melted bits of soppressata. Scoop it on as soon as the mushrooms come off the grill and they’ll drink it up. Croutons baked in olive oil provide texture and marjoram provides a fresh, aromatic note.
“I would say the biggest mistake cooks make is the mushroom is undercooked,” said Ms. Rodriguez. “These should move on the grill so they get very high and then get moderately hot.”
This recipe provides a beautiful snapshot of the chef’s cooking at her new restaurant Mel’s: classic Italian flavors delivered in unexpected ways. It also reflects the way Mrs. Rodriguez cooks at home. “I eat a lot of vegetables with a hint of meat,” she said. “The soppressata brings a lot of flavor.”
—Kitty Greenwald is a chef, food writer and the co-author of ‘Slow Fires’ (Clarkson Potter)
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While any great mushroom will work here, Chef Melissa Rodriguez loves the way maitakes get soft and meaty inside while crisping the edges. They taste great for her tart vinaigrette made with melted bits of soppressata.
- 2½ pounds maitake mushrooms
- 7 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- ¼ cup diced soppressata
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup roughly torn croutons of sourdough or other rustic bread
- 2 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves
- Preheat a grill to high heat. Toss the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt. Grill the mushrooms over medium heat until browned and crisp on all sides, about 5 minutes. Move the mushrooms to medium heat and continue cooking until the 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 browned around edges and greasy, 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar to deglaze the pan and scrape out any browned bits. Season with salt and pepper.
- Make the croutons: In a second sauté pan over medium heat, sweat minced 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 seasoned croutons to a paper towel.
- To serve, arrange the mushrooms on 4 plates and pour over the warm dressing. Divide the seasoned croutons on top and serve immediately, with a radicchio or other leaf salad on the side.
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