If I had a recipe category titled “Meals to Get You Laid”, I am sure this one would be in it. (Although, naturally I would only use my powers for good, and this occasion was the return of a good friend who now lives mostly overseas).
I wouldn’t normally have the time or energy for something as elaborate as this, but an unexpected cancelled afternoon of work on the day meant I had some rare time up my sleeve to put a little extra effort in.
Somewhere in the nether recesses of my mind I recalled seeing in a magazine (Gourmet Traveller? Donna Hay? Vogue?) these little boxes carved out of a whole potato, then roasted until golden and filled. I couldn’t be bothered looking for the recipe again so I decided to wing it. The same gods that gave me a free afternoon must have been smiling on me because it all worked out beautifully.
These are not hard to make but they are a little time consuming. Its worth it, however, for that little bit of a wow factor. And after all, who doesn’t want to achieve that every now and then?
- 3 large floury potatoes (see my guide), roughly the same size and shape
- 3-4 portobello mushrooms
- 10 grams dried porcini mushrooms.
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 tablespoon caramelised onion relish (from deli or supermarket)
- dash of port
- 3 sprigs thyme
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
Preheat the oven to 190 c.
Make the potato boxes. Peel and cut the ends off the potato.
Carefully cut each side down until you have a roughly even square shape. Don’t cut it down too small, it won’t matter if the corners are a little round.
Take a small sharp knife, and carefully cut around what will be the inside of the box. Leave a border of about half a centimetre. Don’t slice all the way to the bottom if you can avoid it.
Using a melon baller, carefully scoop out as much of the inside of the box as you can. Take care not to scrape too much into the inside walls of the box. Use the knife to even up the borders and sides as best you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Brush the boxes on all sides including the insides. Place them on an oiled baking tray or dish and roast for about 30 minutes. Turn them over, and roast on two of their other sides for another 5-10 minutes each side. They should be nice and golden now.
At this point, you can put them aside, covered, until you are ready to use them.
Make the mushroom filling. Pour 100 ml of boiling water over the p0rcini mushrooms and let them reconstitute for at least 10 minutes. Wipe the portobellos, chop into small pieces. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute the chopped red onion for about 5 minutes until soft. Add a teaspoon or so of butter and the portobellos, garlic and thyme, stirring around to coat. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and moist, stirring around a few times. Season with salt and pepper, and add a little more butter if its getting dry. Pour in the red wine to deglaze, and let it bubble for 10 or 20 seconds. Strain the porcinis and add the liquid they soaked in to the pan. Roughly chop the porcinis and add them, along with the caramelised onion relish and the port. Let it all simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until reduced to a thick but still runny consistency. Set aside.
About 10 minutes before you are ready to serve, brush the boxes with a little oil and pop back into the oven for 10 minutes. Heat the mushroom sauce through if it has cooled, and spoon into the boxes, drizzling a little over the sides.
Serve it with your favourite meat or fish, and some greens. Mine accompanied some panfried chicken escallopes with sage, butter, lemon and garlic, and a side of asparagus.