Breaded and Fried Portobello Mushroom Cutlets

Cotolette di Funghi Portobello

As I have related in the introduction to Assunta’s Beans, during his last bachelor year my husband lived in a villa on a hill that overlooked Florence. The villa’s housekeeper, Assunta, had a husband, Pasquale, under whose tutelage Victor learned to identify pinaroli, a delicious mushroom that grew only close to pine trees. Assunta breaded and fried those mushrooms, a treat that I used to look forward to when, during my fall school holidays, I was able to come down and visit.

Pinaroli is not a variety that is brought to the produce market, and I have never had it since. When I began working with portobello mushrooms, and found they had more flavor than the cultivated white button ones, I thought they might be susceptible to the breading and frying method I had seen Assunta use. As it turned out, they tasted even better than I had hoped.

The more than 45 years that have passed since I had Assunta’s cooking may be blurring my memory a little, but it seems to me that in flavor and texture these portobello mushrooms come rather near the pine-loving ones from that Tuscan hill.

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Ingredients

  • 4 to 6 portobello mushrooms, depending on size, but with the largest caps possible
  • 1 teaspoon very, very finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 whole egg
  • Salt
  • Black pepper ground fresh
  • 2 cups fine, dry, unflavored bread crumbs, spread on a plate
  • Vegetable oil

A wire drying rack set over a tray

Method

  1. Separate the mushroom caps from the stems and wash both rapidly under running water. Pat dry with kitchen towels.
  2. Cut the stems lengthwise into slices about inch thick.
  3. Choose a flat-bottomed bowl or another deep dish with a bottom that can subsequently accommodate the largest of the mushroom caps lying flat. Put in the garlic, parsley, egg, salt, and black pepper and beat thoroughly with a fork.
  4. Dip the mushroom caps and stems, one piece at a time, in the egg batter. Make sure each piece absorbs batter on both sides, lift it, and pause to let excess batter flow back into the bowl; then lay it flat over the bread crumbs, turn it over, and pat it down with the flat of your hand to cause the bread crumbs to stick firmly to both surfaces of the mushroom. Place the breaded pieces on a clean, dry plate.
  5. Put enough vegetable oil in a 10-inch skillet to come ½ inch up the sides, and turn on the heat to high. When the oil is hot enough so that it sizzles instantly when tested with a piece of mushroom, slip in the breaded caps and stems, but do not crowd the pan. Cook until a nice golden crust forms on one side, turn them and do the other side, then transfer them to the drying rack using a slotted spoon or spatula. Continue thus until all the mushrooms are done. Serve promptly.

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