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Attention Shroom Lovers: Eat this! French Dip, à la Cafe Flora

Posted By Chris On February 27, 2009 @ 10:04 pm In Main Dishes,Vegetarian | 7 Comments

A few weeks ago, when Cathy and Chris were in town, we headed on over to Cafe Flora to celebrate Cathy’s birthday. Cafe Flora is a vegetarian restaurant that I had previously only visited for brunch; I remember the french toast being delicious, but when we’d go through the options for dinner places, veggie-centric locales rarely made the cut. I never realized what we had been missing! I had the vegetarian equivalent of a French Dip, with portobello mushrooms standing in for the beef. It was absolutely amazing, and seems to be universally beloved; search for it on the Google™ and you’ll find the following:
“The portobello mushroom French dip was worth fighting over, better than any beef version I have ever had.”
“…the best French dip sandwich I’ve ever deigned to dunk.”
“That f***ing French Dip is incredible.”

I was happy to find that the recipe for the sandwich appears in Cafe Flora Cookbook — and it was VERY close to the original. To get closer next time, we’ll use a more “rustic” baguette, like that made by Grand Central. This sandwich is sure to please vegetarians and meat-eaters alike!

Cafe Flora French Dip Sandwich
The Sandwich:
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
3 portobello mushrooms (reserve stems for au jus)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced thinly
1 rustic baguette
4 slices Swiss, mozzarella, or provolone
French Dip Spread (recipe below)
1 1/2 cups Mushroom au jus (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix 2 tbsp of the olive oil and the garlic together in a small bowl. Brush the portobello caps on both sides with the mixture, and sprinkle each side with salt and pepper. Place them gill sides down on a baking sheet, and roast for 25 minutes.
When the mushrooms are cool enough to handle, slice each cap thinly at an angle, netting 8-10 slices per cap.
While the portobello caps are cooking, heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until it begins to soften. Turn the heat to low and cook the onion for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it begins to stick, deglaze the pan with some cooking sherry or water.
Cut the baguette into 4 equal portions 5-6 inches long, avoiding the rounded ends. Slice each in half lengthwise.
Spread each of the 8 halves with 1 tbsp of the French Dip Spread. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Place as many of the halves that will fit, spread-side down, for 3 minutes. Repeat for all the halves.
Place 4 baguette bottom-halves, griddled side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Top each with 1/4 of the sliced mushrooms and grilled onions. Top with cheese.
Place in the 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until heated through and cheese melts. Top with the remaining halves and bake for 3 minutes more.
Slice each sandwich in half at an angle and serve with ~1/3 cup of Mushroom Au Jus.

4 Sandwiches

French Dip Spread:
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (basil, thyme…)
2 tbsp white wine
1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and herbs and cook for two minutes, stirring as you go. Add the wine and cook until mostly evaporated, but still moist. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Add the cooled shallot mixture to the softened butter and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 1/2 cup.

Mushroom Au Jus:
1/2 lb whole mushrooms and/or stems
6 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 1/2 tbsp tamari

Combine the mushrooms, garlic, and 6 cups of water in a 3 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, until the liquid has been reduced to 1 1/2 – 2 cups.
Strain the liquid and add the tamari. Keep warm if using immediately, or refrigerate/freeze.

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