Transform The Classic French Dip Sandwich With Portobello Mushrooms

The French dip sandwich is widely considered a classic — one many would argue you shouldn't alter for the simple reason that it's perfect as it is. There are times, however, when breaking from tradition can be advantageous, particularly in vegetarian-friendly cooking. Tasting Table's vegetarian mushroom French dip sandwich from recipe developer Tanika Douglas is one such example of that. In it, Douglas takes the classic combination of sweet, caramelized onions, salty provolone cheese, and umami-rich jus and juxtaposes it with something not so traditional: portobello mushrooms.

From savory gyros to fajitas and from pot roast to jerky, portobello mushrooms are used as a substitute for meats like lamb and beef. The reason is the same as why Douglas uses them in her recipe: because they're meaty, or at least meat-like. Used as a rich source of umami flavor in vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes alike, mushrooms are known to provide a savory and earthy flavor, much like what you'd typically get from the beef in your French dip. But they also have a dense, somewhat chewy texture that won't leave you missing anything.

Cooked on a skillet until caramelized and sandwiched between a halved baguette along with the onions and cheese, portobello mushrooms will bring your French dip sandwich all the meaty flavors you expect. That's not the only purpose mushrooms serve in your French dip sandwich, however. Turns out, if they need to, they can bring the rich au jus too.

Mushroom French dip with a jus to match

When it comes to a vegetarian French dip, portobellos handily replace the meat filling, but what about the jus? Traditionally made from the beef drippings that come off the roast, the jus is as inherent to a French dip as the meat it's made from — if not more. It can be difficult to imagine what could replace it, but that's what's required of breaking tradition and, in turn, crafting a vegetarian French dip sandwich that stands up to the beefy classic. Douglas further shows the true magic of mushrooms by using them to make the jus, this time in their dried form.

Dried mushrooms give off even more umami than their fresh counterpart, which is why they're commonly used to boost flavor in broths and soups. They're also a go-to ingredient in vegetarian gravies, and considering the one thing that sets au jus apart from gravy is the consistency, it could be where Douglas got the idea. In her recipe, she specifically lists using dried shiitakes, but you could also easily use whatever dried mushrooms you have on hand or are available to you — dried porcinis or wild mixed mushrooms will also work just fine. Simmered with garlic, butter, white wine, veggie stock, and some fresh thyme before blending until smooth, you'll have a vegetarian jus to match your vegetarian French dip. While it's anything but traditional, it certainly won't disappoint.