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Portobella Brisket with Roasted Root Vegetables
Passover is one of my favorite Jewish holidays. It’s so poignant and powerful, especially if you use a vegan Haggadah.
Passover was also special to me because it meant time with my
grandparents and my Grandmother’s brisket. Like many people who had
challenging childhoods, food came to symbolize love and comfort to me,
especially the food from my Grandmother because I loved her so much.
It’s hard for me to think that I once ate cows. Cows were really the
first farmed animals I met after I went vegan. There was one cow in
particular whom I bonded with at Farm Sanctuary the first time we
visited a sanctuary after I went vegan. She headbutted a goat who was
ready to ram me but that’s a different story for a different day. In
any case, sensitive but strong cows...how could you not love? When I
went vegetarian as a teenager, my Grandmother was shocked: I was the
one of her six grandchildren who seemed to love her food the most. “Not
even brisket?,” she asked, a little sadness on her face. I shook my
head and I knew in that moment that if I wouldn’t eat meat to make my
Grandmother feel better, I wouldn’t do it for anyone. I was vegetarian
- and then vegan - for life, and it wasn’t because I didn’t like the
taste of meat. It was because I couldn’t stomach the needless cruelty
Recently, it’s been on my mind to develop something evocative of my
Grandmother’s brisket, served, as she did, with tender-roasted
vegetables. I first did a little research on brisket, which is a common
cut of meat prepared by Ashkenazi Jews for the holidays, and how it is
cooked. Yeah, I took one for the team. I learned that key to its
tenderness is to roast it for a long period of time at a low
temperature. I decided to try the same strategy for portobello
mushrooms, adapting a bit due to the smaller size than traditional
brisket. Brisket is not only cooked long and at a low temperature, it
is braised like a pot roast as it’s cooking. Again, I decided to do the
Have no illusions -- what you will find here does not taste like meat.
It tastes like mushrooms - tender, umami-packed and juicy - but there
is no hiding the fact that it’s not beef. If you really want something
that tastes more like meat, I’d recommend you make a seitan dish as
it’s much closer in texture. For myself, I can’t do gluten and I
thought it’d be fun to try this with something other than tofu or
jackfruit. Thus portobello mushrooms popped in my mind, and for a few
days before, I planned it all out.
A note on portobellos: Me and these giant mushrooms go way back. In the
1990s, if you wanted to eat out as a vegan, it was either portobello
mushrooms in various forms or hummus. If you were lucky, I might add!
Once things started getting better in terms of vegan options, I went on
strike against portobellos because I never much cared for them in the
first place and I had eaten more than my share over those years. I have
recently come back around to them and I am glad I did because they are
perfect in this dish.
A note on Passover: This should be Kosher for Passover except for the
tamari and perhaps Worcestershire sauce but I am not an expert in this.
Maybe be Sephardic this year?
A note on brisket: The kind of brisket this is inspired by - the
Eastern European recipe - is different from the popular brisket
originating in Texas.
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Portobella Brisket with Roasted Root Vegetables
note on this recipe: While this is a simple recipe to execute, it takes
a while to marinate and bake. Be sure to read all the instructions
before making or you may be disappointed to learn the mushrooms soak
overnight or for eight overs) in the marinade. It’s always a good idea
to read through recipes before cooking anyway.
6 clean portobello mushrooms
4 cups vegetable broth
½ cup tomato sauce
¼ cup vegan red wine
2 tablespoon tamari
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus one teaspoon, divided
1½ teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce (gluten-free, if that’s how you roll)
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
7 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves
4 cups baby potatoes, cut into fourths (I liked a mix of colors)
5 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, cut into fourths or eighths
Additional salt and pepper to taste
each mushroom flat in your palm and use a small metal spoon to
carefully remove the gills and stems; be very gentle or you could break
it into pieces. Having a bowl nearby to deposit this is handy. You can
also just twist the stems out sometimes. You can keep the stems
separate and use them for something else, like a stir-fry, chili or
broth. Score the tops of the mushrooms with a small, sharp knife. This
helps to infuse the mushrooms with marinade.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan for every two
mushrooms over medium heat. I was able to fit two mushrooms in at a
time, so this is three tablespoons when you are done. Cook the tops
down (the scored side) for six minutes, then flip and cook another
minute. Do this until all mushrooms have been cooked. Set them aside to
In a blender, add the broth, tomato sauce, wine, two tablespoons of
olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, nutritional yeast, onion
powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper, Blend until smooth and
In one freezer bag, add three mushrooms, two thyme sprigs, one rosemary
sprig, one bay leaf and enough broth to cover when lying flat. Do the
same thing in a second bag. You may have some broth left over. That’s
okay! Allow this to marinate overnight in the refrigerator or for eight
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Prepare a deep roasting pan with
parchment paper. Remove the mushrooms from the bags (reserving the
marinade) and place on the parchment in the middle, shaping it loosely
like a loaf. I put the smaller mushrooms on the ends and overlapped to
build this shape. Brush 1 teaspoon olive oil over the top.
In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, carrots and onions. (If you want
the onions to stay together best, don’t add them until you’ve already
mixed it together and you can leave the stem and top intact, just
peeling the skins off.) Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and three
tablespoons of the marinade and mix until coated. Arrange this around
the mushrooms, pour any remaining liquid over the veggies, and place
the three remaining sprigs of thyme over the top of the mushrooms.
Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil and bake for one hour.
After one hour, remove the foil and baste with marinade, dabbing the
mushrooms and veggies. Re-cover with foil and put back in the oven for
Remove from the oven, sprinkle everything with additional salt and
pepper and remove the mushrooms to cut in thin strips, ideally along
the score marks. (You may want to wait five minutes for it to cool a
bit.) Plate with the roasted veggies and enjoy!
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