Flat iron mushrooms: a reference to New York? to steak? to cast iron pans? It’s actually all three and also, the most flavoursome mushrooms ever.
Flatten your food
It is quite a magical process: flattened mushrooms, cooked on cast iron griddle or a heavy frying pan, concentrate and magnify their flavour exponentially. Ordinary ‘shrooms taste wonderful, almost like wild porcini or at least chanterelles.
My natural curiosity and inquisitive spirit instantly make me wonder whether it will be the same with other foodstuffs. After all everyone knows that reducing stock or sauce concentrates the flavour.
Fruit jellies – how intense are they? Essence of anything is used in drops for fear of being overpowering. And if you squash a tomato to release the watery seeds, you’re left with better flavour.
I visualise compressed cauliflower, flattened boiled rice, compacted chicken breast and packed cottage cheese: those foods that only taste of what you put on them in copious quantities. Tofu is already compressed I believe, but heck: what if we could iron it down so much to actually be tasteful?
On second thoughts I guess some things will never be flavoursome, no matter what pressure you submit them to.
More mushrooms please, we’re vegans
I’ll stick to mushrooms for the time being. They have flavour to start with, only not quite as much as the wild varieties. A pinch of dried porcini powder flavours a soup better than a pound of cap champignons.
But the flattening approach certainly does have an astonishing effect on chestnuts, buttons, oysters, shiitake, maitake or portobellos.
I’ve seen it done on vegan recipe sites which claim to make a steak equivalent out of flattened and seasoned mushrooms. I am very pleased to see that, though personally I’d put my mushrooms on top of a small, occasional, free range and sustainable piece of beef.
But cooking portobellos as your steak is so much better than reaching for ultra-processed fake meat products, which most often defies the actual point of the diet, both in terms of your and the planet’s health.
How to flatten mushrooms?
To be honest, it works the best with two cast iron pans, one neatly fitting into the other. The base one is heated till smoking and with a drop of oil, the mushrooms go under the press – the other pan gets on top to smother them. If you’re not sure the bottom is clean, you can use a disc of parchment between the pan and the fungi.
A satisfying cloud of steam will emerge around the sides and when it evaporates, it will need only a minute before the mushrooms are ready to be turned over and the exercise repeated. At the end they will need to be seasoned, perhaps basted with a lump of butter, and salted when off the pan.
Considering it’s the best tool for the recipe, I call these ‘flat iron mushrooms’, combining it with the fond thoughts of steak and New York. Plus, calling them simply ‘flattened mushrooms’ sounds kind of flat.
What if you don’t have cast iron pans?
Or only one? Is there no hope?
There is. A second-best result that I have had was with an ordinary non-stick frying pan and a flat lid off another pan, roughly fitting into the said fry pan.
You‘ll need to put some welly into pressing the lid down and grab it with a tea towel so you don’t get burnt, but the outcome is perfectly respectable. Bad worker always blames his tools, eh?
How to serve the flat mushrooms?
I absolutely adore them on plain noodles, just like in the pictures here, or plain rice. They provide the natural, non-ultra-processed protein element to carb filler like rice or noodles. I’d be also happy to have them with pasta with perhaps a sprinkling of Parmesan as well.
But they can also be great on toast, as a salad topping, a jacket potato topping or an excellent, albeit slightly effortful breakfast side to eggs.
More mushroom recipes
Without much pressing, fried mushrooms can be also wonderful, for breakfast or as a side.
And if you’re fortunate to purchase or forage some wild mushrooms, sauté them simply.
Mushroom sauce is the easiest and the most versatile sauce – you can make it in double the quantity and freeze for future pasta or meatball occasions.