Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

So good, and really pretty easy as long as you can find the main ingredient:

Mushrooms the right size for stuffing. Not huge, like Portobello, although I guess you could use those and each one would be a meal. But too small, and it would be a pain to stuff them, although I suppose you could. This is pictured on a small "bread" plate, so don't think it is a dinner plate with a huge mushroom.

I like mushrooms at least an inch across and two inches across is better. Some stores here actually sell "Mushrooms for stuffing" in the 2-inch size, with most but not all of the stem cut off. Well, the stem is cut off flush with the bottom of the cap, which means I still need to do some work. And that's OK.

This recipe makes enough filling for however many mushrooms you can fit in a 9 by 12-inch Pyrex baking dish or similar pan. I always plan to have an emergency overflow pan because it is hard to tell how many will fit in one pan. And that's OK, too.

  • 12-24 mushrooms, depending on size (more smaller ones, fewer big ones, obviously)
  • approx. 1 lb. Italian sausage. You can go up to 1-1/2 pounds, and you can use a mixture of hot and mild, or all of either one, depending on what you like. I like hot. If you can buy it not in casings, that is a little easier, but really doesn't matter.
  • 1 8-oz. package cream cheese, room temperature (open it while it is still cold, before it gets gooey, and put it on a plate or whatever and let it sit while you do the other things.)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. garlic buds or powder (but not salt! or put some fresh garlic in with the sausage while frying it)
  • about 2T Worcestershire sauce, give or take
  • a couple of T of vegetable oil, your choice, or butter
  • 1 egg yolk (could you leave this out? possibly, but I don't)
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, about 1/2 cup (or more!)
  • White wine
Prepare the mushroom caps. Wash or wipe off any obvious dirt, but don't soak. I find that an ordinary teaspoon makes a good scoop to hollow out the mushrooms without piercing the caps. Save the stems and associated innards to make soup, or whatever. You don't have to completely hollow out the mushrooms, just make a cavity for the filling.

Put enough oil or butter in the baking dish to coat the bottom. Arrange the mushroom caps, cap side down. Pour about 1 tsp. of white wine in each hollowed out cap. Let that soak in while you proceed.

If the sausage is in casings, squeeze it out. The casings are edible but tough and chewy, so they aren't an asset here. Fry the sausage, breaking it up with a spatula or fork -- the back of a fork actually does work pretty well. You want it to be fairly granular, not huge lumps. Cook it until there's no pink showing. Transfer the sausage, without the grease, to a bowl to cool. (A slotted spatula or spoon is good.) You could certainly save the melted fat to saute other things in, but we don't need it here.

Combine the egg yolk, Worcestershire sauce and garlic (if you haven't added it to the sausage) in a large bowl and add the cooled sausage and the cream cheese, and up to 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan. Or you can leave out the Parmesan at this stage and just add some on the top later. You can try mixing with a spoon, but truthfully, just wash your hands really well and get in there to mix it all together.

Fill the mushroom cavities with the mixture, put grated Parmesan on top.

You can stop here and refrigerate overnight. Or:

Preheat oven to 350, then bake for about 25 minutes. Might need another 5 or so, if they are really large mushrooms.

To serve, lift out of the liquid that will have cooked out. It is wine and sausage essence and mushroom essence, so unless you are insane, do not throw the liquid away. It's tricky to serve with the mushrooms, which are meant as finger food, but why not have it with pasta or bread after everyone has gone home?

These reheat nicely. I doubt that they would freeze well.

If you have filling left over, and you could, depending on the size of the mushrooms, well -- chop up those leftover mushroom stems and saute them, then make a spread for some good bread and stick it under the broiler.

You can "stretch" the filling, and pretend it's healthier, by adding some bread crumbs, but be sure to check the seasoning so that you don't make it all too bland.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Whole Wheat Bread (well, mostly)

This is adapted from my dad's recipe, and is an excellent thing to do on a cold winter weekend. The house smells terrific. The "well, mostly" part is because it does have some white flour as well as whole wheat.

for two loaves:
2 pkgs or about 3 T of dry yeast, which these days is sold as "Bread Machine Yeast"
1/4 cup warm water
2-1/2 cups hot water
1 Tablespoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup of some sort of fat: butter or oil or shortening, melted
4 cups whole wheat flour, approx.
4 cups white flour, preferably unbleached, approx.

  • Dissolve the yeast in about 1/4 cup warm water.
  • Measure the 2-1/2 cups of water into a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup or some other larger microwavable vessel. Add the butter/shortening/oil, salt and the brown sugar and heat until it's all dissolved. Yep, you could also do this in a pan on the stove. Let cool to lukewarm. (Baby's bath temp.) Put into a big bowl.
  • Stir in the whole wheat flour, using a sturdy whisk if you have one. Add the yeast mixture. Start adding the white flour. When it starts getting too stiff to mix with a whisk or spoon, I'm sorry, but you will just have to use your hands. You did wash them, right?
  • When the dough is moderately stiff, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and satiny. It really helps to have flour to keep dipping your hands into so the dough doesn't stick. This is a great stress reliever and I'm not telling you who I think about while I smack the heck out of that dough. (Knead = press/punch the center, then fold the back over, then press, etc. Hard to describe, fun to do.) Why would anyone let a bread machine do the fun part?
  • Shape the dough into a ball. Rinse out your big bowl with hot water and dry it. Rub it with butter or a little oil. Put the dough in and turn to coat all sides with a little of the oil. Let it rise to double its original size at least once, and twice is better. Takes about an hour each, depending on the temperature. (If in a hurry, put it in a warmish place covered with a clean dish towel. Not too warm, but above the dishwasher (if it is running) is good or inside the oven with just the oven light on is good. Or on top of the dryer. But it is better to not be in a hurry, because the texture will be better.)
  • Punch down and divide in half, pressing each half into a loaf pan. Let rise again until about double.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 F
  • Bake 45 minutes, but after about 20-25 minutes, brush the tops with some butter or oil and turn the oven down to 350. It will work if you don't do this, but this is better. Also, if the tops are getting brown long before the 45 minutes are up, cover with foil. I've never had to, but I think it depends on your oven.
  • Take the pans out of the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes, then tip them over to remove the loaves and put the loaves on some kind of cooling rack, or at least a clean towel, so they don't get soggy (which they would do if left in the pans)
  • Wait as long as you can stand, but by all means cut some slices while the loaf is still warm. All you really need is butter, or maybe some good soup.
This freezes well, especially if you don't slice the second loaf.
You can get away with using more whole wheat and less white flour, but the loaf will get denser and denser. You can make up for this by letting it rise more slowly for longer, maybe. It starts to get into science. It is fun to experiment, but I will tell you that if you are baking at home, trying to use all whole-wheat flour with no white (or unbleached white) flour will yield a VERY dense bread. The commercial bakers have other tricks up their sleeve.


About Me

My photo
This is me enjoying a limoncello in Rome on the last night of our trip to Italy. Funny thing is, I don't really like limoncello that much, but thought it would be great in a dessert. And wouldn't you know, The Barefoot Contessa just did a great fruit salad with limoncello. So now I can't. Oh, well.