The Ultimate Grilled Cheese

Serves 4

Mushrooms + Butter = Heaven

Yes, it’s a bold statement, but it’s so true.  And it’s a great truth because it makes those expensive and intimidating mushrooms a bit more accessible.  I wasn’t a mushroom lover.  During my vegetarian years, mushrooms seemed like another meat substitute and I got tired of the ubiquitous portobello mushroom ‘burger’ pretty quickly.  That’s the only way mushrooms were available.  Then I moved to Japan and the mushroom world opened up to me…and it’s still unfolding today.  Yet, no matter what mushroom I come across (no, I haven’t been foraging yet, but I can’t wait to get there someday), it seems that Julia Child and my friend, Sophia were right; sauté in a little butter, salt and pepper and YUM!

The health benefits of mushrooms in general are pretty much endless.   I worked at a food conference once about food and cancer and the keynote speaker, a very progressive oncologist, talked about mushrooms.  They are anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, some inhibit tumor growth, lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, lower blood pressure, protect against the effects of chemo and radiation.  Maitakes are particularly full of Vitamins B and C and minerals zinc, iron, potassium, and selenium.  They are thought to be the most immune boosting of the bunch.  They are also potent anti-virals and amazing detoxifiers.

After all that she says, if they really want to clean up the Gulf of Mexico (just after BP spill), dump a few tons of mushrooms into the gulf.  They’ll take care of it.*  Now that’s a bold statement!

You’ll need:

2 large shallots, sliced

1/2 lb. maitake mushrooms

1-2 T olive oil

1-2 T organic butter, (pastured or raw would be even better)

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Emmentaler cheese, sliced (A nice sharp cheddar or Parmigiano Reggiano are great options, too.)

Sourdough bread, sliced

1 T fresh parsley, finely chopped

To make:

1. Heat olive oil over low-medium heat in a sauté pan (I use a cast iron skillet for every step…there’s just something about it for this!) and add shallots.  Add a pinch of salt and let caramelize.  Stir often to not let them burn.  It should take about 7 mins.  Remove from pan.

2. To clean the mushrooms, just wipe them gently with a paper towel.  With your fingers, take them apart (like string cheese…yikes, remember those days!).  Add 1 T butter to the pan over low-medium heat and then add mushrooms, a good pinch of salt of pepper.  Let cook and get slightly browned, about 10 mins.  Remove from pan.

3. Assemble the sandwiches with a thin layer of cheese on the bottom, mushrooms, shallots and another thin layer of cheese on top.  With remaining butter, grill sandwiches in pan.

4. To serve, top with chopped parsley.

5. Enjoy!

P.S. These are awesome for kids, too.  I know that sounds crazy and I wouldn’t believe it either, but I am speaking from experience!  Just try them:)

*Pamela Yee, MD, at Food Solutions – Navigating Cancer at Urban Zen Foundation, 2010

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