Friday, March 16, 2012

stuffed mushrooms

The first three times that Bunny and I cooked for each other, there were mushrooms involved. Creminis sauted with cumin and sesame oil, portella slices in red wine vinegar with parmesan cheese, and stuffed mushrooms. It was also a time of pretending that I wasn't desperately turned off by tomatoes, to the point that I gag and leave the room when they are cooking. It would have just been too much: a vegetarian who won't go near a tomato.

I have very fond memories of our early forays into cooking for each other. Every time I have grilled cheese I'm taken back to the first breakfast Bunny ever cooked (and first year university, where I ate it five days a week in the cafeteria). We went to great lengths to impress each other with our kitchen prowess, and every now and again we like to recreate parts of our early meals.

For me, that means making stuffed mushrooms, which is a go-to showy dish for me. It's easy, and looks much more impressive than the sum of its parts. I tend to stick to the same pepper-and-mushroom stuffing, because I like the colour and texture contrast, but that's where you can get creative and do whatever you want. Without any further ado ....

Pepper Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 10-12 "stuffer" mushrooms - or any large cap mushroom. Large creminis and mini bellas are probably my favourites here.
  • 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I tend to use a pre-seasoned crumb. If you don't you may want to add 1/2 tsp each of oregano and thyme, OR 1 tsp Italian seasoning. Or whatever spices YOU like.)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • olive oil
  • salt to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 350*F. Clean the mushrooms, trimming off the woody part of the stem.
  2. Carefully destem your shrooms. Often, the stems snap off fairly easily, but you may prefer a paring knife. Carefully trim away any flaps of mushroom flesh from the opening, in order to create more stuffing space. Put the mushroom stems aside for later.
  3. Arrange mushroom caps on a lined cookie sheet. Lightly sprinkle salt over all caps, set aside for later.
  4. Chop onion and bell pepper, mince garlic. Finely chop the stems of the mushrooms.
  5. Using a non-stick skillet, bring about two teaspoons olive oil to medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cooking until onions are translucent. Season to taste with salt - I find about 1/2 tsp here to be more than enough. Add the bell pepper and mushroom stems, and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Everything should start smelling really good and the bell pepper will lose some of its opaqueness.
  6. Remove from heat. Stir in bread crumbs and parmesan.
  7. Carefully spoon stuffing mixture into the mushroom caps. In general, this recipe yeilds overflowing caps (just the way I like them).
  8. Sprinkle some grated parmesan over the top of the caps for extra deliciousness.
  9. Bake 12-15 minutes. The cheese at the top will start to brown and your nose should tell you when these are done.
  10. Eat them. Share with friends or hoard them all for yourself. (I won't tell).
I've said it before and I'll say it again: make this to YOUR tastes. There are so many things you can adjust on this dish to suit yourself. Good starting points are:
  • SEASONINGS. I barely season this: I find that just a touch of salt to bring the flavours out is more than enough, especially with the parmesan. You could do Indian-inspired, or heavily garlicked, or a great smoky flavour.
  • Bread crumbs. I know these are problematic for lots of people, but I'm sure that you could find an acceptable gluten-free substitute. Make your own crumbs from gluten free bread? Maybe there's a different binding agent you'd like to use. I cook imagine substituting cooked rice or barley here, but it wouldn't hold together quite as well.
  • The stuffing. I've got a craving for these cooked up wonderfully with a nice crab-and-green onion filling. Or maybe grains. Different vegetables. I'm clearly in love with the Red Lobster stuffed mushrooms. Choose flavours you like and play! (And if you change the filling, maybe change up the cheese!)
  • The cheese. I use what I like, and what's easy for me, but there's nothing to say that these wouldn't be great with a romano or asiago. Actually, I think I've done asiago before. It was nice.

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