Sunday, December 28, 2008

Roasted Stuffed Mushrooms: Italian antipasto for winter

In mid-winter, freshly roasted stuffed mushroom caps are something to savor before an Italian meal. Or any meal for that matter. We're just past Christmas, with too much rich food. So this one is for when things settle down, and guests have gone home.

This is a hearty antipasto, literally something to eat before the pasta course in an Italian dinner. Increasingly, large mushroom caps are available at supermarkets for stuffing, but more ordinary sized mushrooms are also effective. Both meat and non-meat stuffing variations are included here. Prepare mushrooms ahead, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Roast just before eating.

The recipe serves six. Wines to go with antipasti include Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chianti.

Stuffed Mushroom Antipasto

12 large stuffing sized mushrooms (or 24 regular sized mushrooms)
1 scallion (green onion)
1 small clove garlic
2-inch length of celery
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound ground pork or chicken (easily chopped on a board using a chef’s knife or cleaver) (vegetarian substitute: 3/4 cup grated zucchini or summer squash)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Small pinch of cayenne or two squirts of hot pepper sauce
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dry)
3/8 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) unseasoned breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons red or white wine
6 to 8 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Rinse and drain mushrooms. Cut off (and reserve) stems. Place mushroom stems, scallion, white and green parts, garlic, and celery in a food processor and pulse to chop finely. (Alternatively, finely mince these ingredients on board with chef’s knife.)

Fry in olive oil, stirring occasionally, until onion softens. Add ground pork or chicken (or grated zucchini or summer squash), and fry, stirring often and breaking up lumps, until meat color has changed or squash is limp and much of the liquid has dried (5 to 7 minutes). Stir in herbs and spices, parsley, and salt, and let fry gently one minute. Add wine, stir to blend in, and then breadcrumbs. Heat thoroughly, stirring frequently. Then add enough water, several tablespoons at a time, while stirring, until mixture is moistened. Remove from heat, and stir in grated cheese. Taste, and add salt if necessary.

Lightly salt undersides of mushroom caps. Evenly distribute stuffing mixture and pack it onto mushroom caps, mounding up as necessary. Place mushrooms, stuffed side up, in lightly oiled heatproof serving dish. Stuffed mushrooms can be stored at this stage, refrigerated, if desired.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake mushrooms until fully heated and surfaces begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Serve hot.

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