salmon and mango stuffed mushrooms

Many stuffed mushroom recipes are for little party canapes. Not these mushrooms. You fill portobello caps with a mixture of salmon, mango, coconut milk, soy sauce, garlic, and basil, bake until everything is juicy and tender, and serve over a bed of fluffy jasmine rice (which you’ve ideally cooked with the extra coconut milk from the can). It’s a burst of tropical flavor, which I promise tastes much better than it looks (and it looks better than this picture suggests, as I momentarily forgot what little I know about photography, and took this picture in a dumb way).

This recipe was originally invented by my friend Andrew, who is a rather more skilled cook than I am, and makes up his own recipes (I get a little freaked out without a clear set of instructions). I had these for the first time when we were doing a semester abroad at Oxford. We have the same birthday, and a lot of our friends from undergrad were visiting, so he came over to my house and made these for lunch. When I heard the list of ingredients I was a bit dubious (because I was picky and narrow-minded!), but when I ate them, I thought they were fantastic. 

I asked for the recipe, and attempted them myself when I was back in Georgia that summer. This was back in my days of cooking ineptitude, and I made a total hash of it, in a variety of ways. It all started when I was in the grocery store, looking at mangoes, and realized I had no idea what ripe mangoes were supposed to look like. So I pulled out my phone, called Andrew, reminded him briefly of the recipe, and asked what mangoes were supposed to look like when they are ripe. Andrew sounded somewhat confused, but tried to answer my question anyway. A minute or so into his explanation, I realized I had called a completely different Andrew, someone I hadn’t seen or talked to in months, and unceremoniously demanded information about mangoes (which he did his best to provide, without stopping to point out that he had never given me any recipes, and had no idea what I was talking about). This is why you should include people’s last names in your cell phone contacts list, especially when you have multiple friends with the same name. So that was a bit awkward, but I sorted things out, called the proper Andrew, and managed to pick out some mangoes that I thought looked presentable.

Andrew had originally used coconut cream in this recipe, which I couldn’t find in my American grocery store. Because I was pretty dumb, I didn’t know that such a thing as coconut milk existed, so I didn’t realize that that would be the obvious substitute. I was smart enough at least to figure out that dried sweetened coconut wouldn’t be ideal, and, at an impasse, decided to buy a whole coconut and see if I could make it work.

My dad had to crack open the coconut with a hammer on the sidewalk outside, and let’s just say it didn’t work. The coconut flesh was crunchy and not in the least bit creamy, despite lots of chopping and pounding. And, to top it all off, despite having two different Andrews tell me what ripe mangoes should look like, I managed to get unripe mangoes, which were also crunchy. And then I overcooked the salmon. So instead of tender salmon nestled atop a tender mushroom and swimming in a creamy sauce with soft, juicy mangoes, I had tough salmon with lots of crunchy bits, a textural disaster.

I didn’t attempt it again till I was back in England, where things went much more smoothly. I still wasn’t a very good cook, but it came out well and was the most impressive dish in my repertoire, so I trotted it out at quite a few dinner parties. And now, finally, having made it twice in the last few days so that I could tinker a bit with the recipe, I can promise you that making these mushrooms will be foolproof and stress-free – no need to get out the hammer and tackle a whole coconut. I’ve even included a note at the end so you can be sure your mangoes are ripe.

Salmon- and Mango-stuffed Mushrooms

I’ve generally made this for two people, so that’s the proportions I’ve listed here, but it can easily be doubled. The recipe as I’d originally copied it was pretty minimalist, and had you put the salmon mixture together, stuff the mushrooms, and broil it all till done. The mushrooms take considerably longer than the salmon to cook though, so I’ve made a few changes so that everything is done at the same time. I used to just chop the garlic, but that resulted in crunchy bits of garlic in the finished product, and if you’ve read this far you know I’m a little obsessive about texture here. I puree the garlic into a paste in the food processor now. If you own a garlic press, I think that would work as well. If crunchy garlic sounds less annoying than having to wash the food processor, feel free to mince it as finely as you can instead. See the end of the recipe for a few notes on ingredients.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 salmon fillets, about 4 oz. (125 g) each, skinned and cubed
2 portobello mushroom caps, cleaned and stems removed
1 mango, peeled and pitted
3/4 cup coconut milk (about half of a 14 oz. can; 200 ml)
2 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-3 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400º F/200ºC. Place mushrooms in a metal pan that can go in the oven and on the stove top (I just use a cake pan, but a stainless steel skillet would also work).

Chop and mash the mango with a potato masher (or fork, if you don’t have one). Place the garlic cloves in a food processor with a splash of the coconut milk and pulse until it becomes a paste. In a medium bowl, combine the mango, garlic paste, coconut milk, soy sauce, lemon juice, basil, and salmon. Stir until everything is evenly incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

While the salmon is marinating, bake the mushrooms for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes are over, remove the mushrooms from the oven and place the pan over a burner. Spoon as much of the salmon mixture as you can onto the mushrooms. Pour the extra sauce around the mushrooms in the pan. Turn on the burner to medium, and bring the sauce in the pan to a simmer, stirring to mix the sauce with the juices from the mushrooms. Simmer for about a minute, then return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes. If the salmon isn’t quite done, leave it in the oven for another minute. It should look done on the outside, but still be a tiny bit pink  on the inside when you flake open one of the cubes.

Serve the mushrooms on a bed of jasmine rice, or, even better, coconut jasmine rice made using the extra coconut milk (you can find a recipe for the rice over here). Pour extra sauce from the pan over the mushrooms, and eat.

A few notes:

1) You can find something called coconut cream in American grocery stores, made by Goya. The second ingredient, after coconut juice, is sugar, followed by a lengthy list of additives – I don’t recommend using it at all, as it is not actually coconut cream. When I used proper coconut cream in England, my recipe notes indicate that I used half of a 250 ml box for two servings.

2) About mangoes: ripe mangoes are a deep red-ish orange, and should feel slightly soft when squeezed (not mushy). If you’re faced with nothing but hard, green mangoes though, not to worry – mangoes are the kind of fruit that continues to ripen once it has been picked. Leave the mangoes sitting out in a cool place ( but not the refrigerator) for a day or two (or three). Mangoes ripen from the inside out, so if it seems like nothing’s happening, that’s just because you can’t see it yet! To speed the process up a bit, you can put the mango in a paper bag (not plastic – it holds in too much moisture) with another piece of ripe fruit. A fancy chemical process happens, which would take up more space in an already long post to explain – Harold McGee says it works, and he knows what he’s talking about, so there you have it.

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One Comment on “salmon and mango stuffed mushrooms”

  1. [...] are to blame, or maybe we can peg this one on the salmon – I’ve posted two other salmon recipes, and I wasn’t super happy with either of those photos either, however much I liked the food [...]


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