Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

Shitake Stuffed Portobellos

I made the mistake of walking past a mirror right after the first of the year. The reflection of a rotund stranger stared back at me, and it took me several seconds to realize that the portly visage I was staring at was – ME!

Unfortunately, I have been having this same New Year’s wake up call for decades. Once again, I am vowing to moderate my excessive appetites in the hope of sculpting a visually more appealing version of myself. In other words, I’m going to try and eat less and choose foods that are healthy – and that actually taste good too.

I’m going to share a recipe with you for a dish that accomplishes both of the above-mentioned goals. Of course, I’ll give you a couple of wine pairing suggestions that will significantly enhance the enjoyment of the dish. It will be up to you, however, to moderate your wine intake. In my case, that means cutting back to only half a bottle.

Spoiler alert: If you do not like mushrooms, you won’t want to read any further.


I’m sure many of you have eaten Portobello mushrooms. You may have cooked them on the stovetop, or oven baked them with stuffing. You might have sliced and sautéed them with onions, garlic and other spices, and used them as a side dish. My recipe, which is meant to be an entrée, uses a little bit of each method just described, and you’ll have the option of making the dish with or without meat. In addition, this recipe also includes shitake mushrooms as part of the stuffing. And since mushrooms are full of vitamins and are a terrific source of fiber, this entree is also extremely healthy. So here you go.



Shitake Stuffed Portobellos

Four to six Portobello mushrooms
One-half pound of sliced Shitake mushrooms
Four ounces of chopped onion, one tsp chopped garlic, one tsp of red pepper flakes (optional)
One-half cup each of shredded mozzarella and smoked gouda or provolone
Four ounces of bread crumbs
Two links of Italian sausage (optional) finely chopped
One half red bell pepper finely chopped, a handful of chopped spinach
Two ounces of extra virgin olive oil and a tsp. each of salt and ground black pepper

Wipe Portobellos clean and scrape and discard gills from the mushrooms
Use one ounce of olive to rub Portobellos inside and outside
Place Portobellos on an oven rack and bake for 5 minutes in a 400F oven
Set aside Portobellos to cool
Discard stems from Shitakes and slice
Fry or microwave the Italian sausage and then finely chop
Sauté onions, garlic, red peppers and spinach using the remaining oil – set aside in a bowl
Add salt, pepper, cheese, bread crumbs and sausage to the bowl – stir and allow to cool
Spread the mixture evenly among the Portobellos and bake in 400F oven for 12 minutes
Serve immediately

My wine suggestions for the dish involve bottles that pair well with the earthiness of the mushrooms, and the overall spiciness of the dish. Pinot noir from Oregon has a ton of earthy nuances and also pairs exceptionally well with spicy food. You might try the 2017 Chehalem (Willamette Valley) Pinot Noir ($37).

My other choice to complement the recipe is zinfandel. I’m recommending a medium-bodied and spicy zin with bright dark berry  flavors. The 2017 Ridge Lytton Springs ($45) will make an excellent pairing with the dish.

Saint Patty's Day Pasta
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