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Easy Recipe for Stuffed Mushroom Appetizer
Once upon a time, I ordered a stuffed mushroom appetizer at a restaurant. They were delicious, and I couldn’t wait for an excuse to go back and order them again. After enjoying them a few times, though, it occurred to me that I could probably recreate the dish at home. It didn’t seem all that hard: mushrooms + stuffing + heat = delicious stuffed mushrooms. So I tried it. I was right; it was as easy as writing a cliché.
What You Need
- Some Mushrooms. They need to be big enough to stuff.
- Breadcrumbs. If you like, you can get Italian Style, but I use plain and spice the stuffing myself.
- Olive Oil.
- Parmesan Cheese. You can use the kind in the green cylinder or get the fresh kind and grate it yourself.
- Mozzarella Cheese. Pre-shredded, or get a hunk from the deli section. Or you can make your own.
- Garlic. You can use dried minced garlic from the spice rack, or mince a fresh clove or two. (Guess which I do?)
- Oregano. Fresh or dried. (interestingly, if you use dried, you don’t need as much.)
- Black Pepper. I use a pepper mill. You should too. Trust me, you will notice the difference.
- A bowl to mix the ingredients in.
- A knife and cutting board, for mincing the garlic (optional)
- Some kind of stirring device; a spoon, a spatula, your hands, or a clean stick will all do.
- A device for putting the stuffing mixture into the
mushrooms. Hands work well, as does a spoon.
- A plate to put the stuffed mushrooms on while they wait to be cooked.
- A means of making the stuffed mushrooms really hot for a while. You can use a barbecue grill (my favorite), an oven, (preferably a gas one with a broiler), or even a toaster oven.
- A pair of tongs to take the mushrooms off the heating device and put them onto…
- A serving plate.
These tongs are attractive, functional, and inexpensive.
What You Do
First, you need to make the stuffing. Get a bowl and put the breadcrumbs in. Now mince your garlic, if you’re going to mince fresh garlic, and put that in. Add the cheeses, grating them first if you’re using chunks of cheese from the deli section. Save a little of the mozzarella for later. Put in your oregano and grind in some pepper. Add the olive oil and mix it all up. Get the stuffing looking like it’s all fairly evenly mixed, so you’ll have about the same proportions of the ingredients in each mushroom. You may want to adjust the amounts of some ingredients as you mix. I usually end up adding more olive oil as I go.
Now you need to stuff the mushrooms. Go get them, and clean them off. Don’t wash your mushrooms; they’ll soak up water, which you don’t want. You also oughtn’t peel the mushrooms. I used to do this, but it’s unnecessary, and it’s a waste of mushroom. You can get the mushrooms clean by putting them in a cloth bag and shaking the bejeebers out of them. Any dirt will get shaken off and end up in the bottom of the bag. Any persistent bits of dirt can be picked off when you pull out the stems, which is the next step.
Pull the stems out of the mushrooms. It’s easy. Hold the mushroom by the cap in one hand, and snap the stem out of it with the other. If your mushroom is fresh, the stem should snap out cleanly. Well, maybe a tiny bit will be left behind. Now the cap is empty. This is where the stuffing goes.
Put the stuffing in the mushrooms. You will have noticed by now that I made no mention whatsoever of how much of anything you’ll need for this recipe. I did that on purpose. You will need more or less of the various ingredients depending on how many people you’re going to be feeding. The more mushrooms you have to stuff, the more stuffing you’re going to need. You may suddenly find, as you’re stuffing your mushrooms, that you haven’t made enough stuffing. That’s okay, you can make more. Just put a little more of each ingredient in the bowl and mix ‘em all up. No worries. It happens to me all the time. You may discover that you have a lot of extra stuffing left over. That’s okay too. Put it in an airtight container, pop it in the fridge, and use it to stuff a bell pepper for tomorrow’s dinner. Anyway, now you’ve got a plate of uncooked stuffed mushrooms. The stuffing should make a little hill above the edge of each mushroom cap. Take the mozzarella that you saved and sprinkle a little of it on top of each mushroom. Now you’re ready to cook them.
Put the mushrooms on whatever vessel you’re going to use, be it a broiling pan, a cookie sheet, the little metal tray in the toaster oven, or the barbecue grill. Put them in the oven, or close the lid on the barbecue, and wait. They take about ten minutes or so to cook on a moderately hot grill, or an oven set at about 350°F. When they’re cooked all the way through, the cheese will have melted and the stuffing will be soft and cheesy, not crumbly. The olive oil will also have permeated the mushroom, and you will probably hear a soft sizzle if you’re using a cookie sheet. You can check for doneness by taking the largest mushroom and cutting it in half. If you have a broiler, you can switch your oven to Broil and toast the cheese on top if you like. You can also do this with a crème brulée torch if you have one.
Oh, and just because the hub is about mushrooms...
I recommend using this dish as an appetizer, perhaps before a quick and easy tortellini dish, a light entrée of linguini with garlic and parsley, or maybe something with homemade marinara sauce. You can get all fancy with a specialized serving vessel, like a devilled egg tray, to hold each mushroom individually, or you can just put ‘em on a plate. You’ll find that it’s hard to serve these stuffed mushrooms with a fork. You can use a spoon to scoop them up, but the easiest thing is to use a pair of tongs. You’re a lot less likely to drop a hot mushroom in somebody’s lap.
If you're worried about the timing of cooking a big meal, take some of the pressure off by stuffing the mushrooms the day before and putting them in the refrigerator until you're ready to start cooking them.
Once you've made this dish once or twice, don't be afraid to experiment. Try different cheeses in the stuffing. Romano might be a good addition, or hey, if you're feeling daring, try a Gorgonzola (at your own risk: Gorgonzola has a very strong flavor!). Maybe a splash of a dry white wine, like a Pino Grigio, might make these mushrooms really pop. Try chopping up the stems and putting them in the stuffing mix. Or if you're a seafood fan, maybe you should add some crab meat to the stuffing. Don't be afraid. What's the worst that could happen? You make something you don't like so much. No biggie. Don't use that ingredient again, and try something else next time. Treat it like an adventure.
A Final Note: To Young Gentlemen on a Budget
Fellas? A home cooked meal complete with hors d'oeuvres is a great way to create a memorable dinner date if money is a bit tight. Appetizers like this are usually found in expensive, snooty restaurants. You can save up (or go into debt) to take your date to one of those places if you like, or you can take the time and trouble to cook. This plan has several advantages. First, it’s less expensive. Second, it demonstrates that you are able to do practical things like cook tasty meals. Third, it shows that you’re mature enough not worry about whether cooking affects your macho image. (If you were a bit worried, here’s a hint: competence is manly, and cooking is a skill. You figure out the rest.) And finally, you can get to know your date a lot better while you do the dishes together.