Monday, April 18, 2011

Grilled Portabella Mushrooms with a Garlicky Carrot Puree, Wheat Berries, & Cranberry Creme Fraiche: a Lighter Version of a Czech Classic

I always return home from traveling filled with ideas and inspiration for dishes I want to make. And while I loved, loved, loved the traditional Czech meals I ate in Prague, a number of my favorites make more sense in the context of the chilly early spring of Central and Eastern Europe than they do in what's turning out to be a balmy East Coast April.

Take this dish we had at Lokal, which you may recall from my last post:
Roast beef in a thick root vegetable gravy, cranberry cream sauce, and those big, carby dumplings to soak it all up. Delicious, to be sure ... but I likely won't be making a faithful reproduction of this until sometime around Thanksgiving.

So, to get this flavor profile without the heaviness, I used grilled portabellas rather than meat, a fluffy carrot puree instead of a gravy, whole grain wheat berries in place of starchy white bread, and a lemony, tart cranberry creme fraiche. This was, in a word, a hit.

Grilled Portabella with a Garlicky Carrot Puree, Wheat Berries, & Cranberry  Creme Fraiche

Carrot Puree:
8 oz carrots, peeled
1/3 cup table cream
1 T lemon juice
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 T butter, unsalted
salt & pepper, to taste

Boil the carrots until very soft, and plunge into cold water. Pat dry. Mash by hand and combine with the cream and lemon juice. Puree with an immersion blender or in a stand blender until smooth. Heat the butter in a skillet over low heat until melted. Add the garlic and allow it to infuse the butter. Add the carrot puree and heat until warmed through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wheat berries:
1 cup wheat berries
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 T fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

Toast the berried in a saucepot over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until soft and the liquid has absorbed; about 1 1/2 hours. When finished, stir in the fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Cranberry Creme Fraiche:
2 T dried cranberries
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup creme fraiche
pinch salt

Combine ingredients and blend until almost smooth

2 portabellas
olive oil
salt and pepper

Remove the stem from the mushrooms and gently wipe any dirt from the caps. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill either on a grill pan or an outdoor grill over medium heat for about 6 minutes per side. 

I think the dish is best when you get a forkful of mushroom, carrot puree, and cranberry altogether  - the sweet, salty, tangy and umami is in great balance ... if I do say so myself. As I am a firm believer that all leftovers taste better in taco form, if you have any, chop up the portabella and mix it with the wheat berries and carrot puree and eat it on a corn tortilla.

Stay tuned for more adventures in Prague!


  1. What a beautiful dish - the composition is incredible!!!

  2. This is quite unique very pretty and refreshing flavors with the cranberry cream lovely presented. As always hope you have a great Easter!

  3. I love recipes you post!!! Hugs, Flavia

  4. Awesome dishes, love the grilled portabella, mushrooms are my weakness.

  5. What a fantastic looking dish. I'm excited to try it since I've never made any Czech recipes before.

  6. The old world dish is good, you uped it in style and I would go for your dish first hands down

  7. I am ALL about purees these days! The carrot puree sounds amazing! Exquisite plate!

  8. Sorry the mushroom dish comment was for here...I am backwards today :) Gorgeous dish!

  9. Trix, your interpretation of that Eastern European dish is modern, minimalist and ubercool! I like the flavors you've put together on your plate and also the fact that you've kept it vegetarian. Gor-jus!

  10. Oh wow... I think I like your better. It looks so good!

  11. I am so jealous! I didn't know you were in Prague!

    The classic roast beef and dumplings sounds tasty and very bolstering, but I'm pretty sure I would pick your sprightlier and so much more elegant version over all those hefty carbs...

  12. well now you know I am not gonna pass up a gravy dish but your carrot version sounds pretty darn good and with the creme fraiche along with a nice slice of, well say a pork roast, I would be in pure porky prague heaven...

  13. What a creative take on the classic! I love the idea of a carrot puree. I have to use portabello mushrooms more often, as only my husband is an avid meateater (my girls and I overrule him every time, LOL!)
    I think you'll do fine with German. I am slowly learning Spanish - grammar from the book, and spoken language from the Mexicans I work with:) Perfect combination!