Balsamic Mushrooms with Grape Tomatoes

One of those great combinations that go really well together.  This is also a good winter side dish as mushrooms and grape tomatoes are generally available year-round from hydroponic gardens.  And, it’s a great summer dish if you have a lot of cherry or grape tomatoes.  You can prepare it on the stovetop (summer) or in the oven (winter).  This is something I threw together when both grape tomatoes and mushrooms were on sale.

Several earthy flavors that, once allowed to mellow and deepen, results in a really smooth dish that packs a lot of flavor.  To keep the dish lighter in calories, use less olive oil, more water after onions and mushrooms are browned to help with the braising.

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 2 pounds mushrooms, left whole if small or  halved if larger
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots, leeks, or onion
  • one dry pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 4-inch sprig fresh rosemary, left intact
  • 1/4 cup water or stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, the best you can afford
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Method One:

Heat oil in a heavy saucepan.  This is a good time to pull out the cast iron, as it will give a good sear to the mushrooms and hold the heat well for the braise.  Make sure that the pan is very hot first. Add half of the mushrooms and let sear for a few minutes before stirring.  Stir the mushrooms gently to sear on the other side.  Once well-seared, push those mushrooms aside (or remove from pan), and repeat with the remaining mushrooms.  Remove all mushrooms from pan.  Just as with beef and chicken, it can take a while to get a good sear on the mushrooms.

Add the onions, and cook till translucent.  Scrape up all the brown bits from the mushrooms.

Once the onions are cooked thru, return the mushrooms to the pan.  Add all of the remaining ingredients except the salt and pepper.

Stir well to combine.  Make sure that the rosemary sprig stays on the bottom in the liquid.   I like to leave the sprig whole so it can be easily removed.  Let the mushrooms simmer on medium-low with all the juices until the juices are reduced to a thick syrup.  This may  take 10 to 20 minutes.  For hands free cooking and to clear up your stovetop, this can also be done in the oven in  using a good heavy dish such as a Corning Ware or Le Creuset, or a well-seasoned cast iron with a lid that seals well.

Salt and pepper to taste.  Add the rosemary, water (or stock, although the searing of the mushrooms yields great flavor), and the balsamic vinegar.    When they start to blister and pop. Let the mushrooms and tomatoes braise for about 5 to 10 minutes, so that the water and vinegar reduces, coating the vegetables.  Taste for salt and pepper, adjust.  Remove rosemary sprig.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Method Two:

Again, use a heavy cast iron or enameled cast iron skillet.  You do not need a lid.  Combine all the ingredients, halve the tomatoes if you like, and dump into the well-seasoned cast iron skillet.  Bake in the oven for about 1 hour, stirring once or twice during the baking.  If your oven runs hot, your time may be reduced somewhat.  You should check them!

I have served this as an accompaniment to grits and grillades at a family brunch, where it was very well liked.  It’s certainly not your typical “brunch” food, but it goes very well with the grillades.

Most recently, I’ve served it just as a side to grilled steaks and sausage.  It is really good, and the mushrooms are so flavorful, that it would even make an excellent crostini topping if paired with some goat cheese, or just olive oil.

Also, the last time I made it, I used these beautiful heirloom Blush tomatoes.

A real treat from the Farmer's Market: Blush tomatoes.

A real treat from the Farmer’s Market: Blush tomatoes.

 

While beautiful, they contained more liquid than regular cherry tomatoes, and the dish never quite lost the liquid and “roasted”.  The regular cherry or grape tomatoes from the grocery are actually best suited for this dish as they have less liquid.  Did not make for a good picture; one day!

The Blush tomatoes are slightly larger than the cherry ones, so I quartered them.

The Blush tomatoes are slightly larger than the cherry ones, so I quartered them.

Too heavy a hand with the balsamic vinegar.  Why you should sometimes use a measuring cup.

Too heavy a hand with the balsamic vinegar. Why you should sometimes use a measuring cup.

 

Too much vinegar and too juicy a tomato left for a not quite perfect result.  Stick to grape tomatoes and don;t have too heavy a hand with the vinegar.

Too much vinegar and too juicy a tomato left for a not quite perfect result. Stick to grape tomatoes and don;t have too heavy a hand with the vinegar.

 

 

 

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