Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mushrooms Two Ways or The Tyranny of the Appetizer

It seems whenever we host a group dinner party or are invited to one, the course that everyone avoids bringing is the appetizer.

"How much should I bring? Oh just some quick bites for beforehand."

"What do people like? You know people like whatever you make."

"How about soup? Oh no, that's just a mess in the car."

"Salad? That's so boring."

"What about crostini? They'll just get soggy by the time we get there."

"Crudite? Cold vegetables and ranch dressing? Please."

The truth is that some of the most intricate cooking I do is for appetizers. They're virtually mini meals. One bite wonders that you just happened to whip up at home. With our cooking group I make it clear I'm happy to make the app but I may be over your house a few hours early and I'll probably need a part of the stove or the broiler.

Well here's two mushroom appetizer recipes, one can be done completely in advance and the other just need minimal work on site. Good luck and keep fighting the good food fight.

Mushroom Ceviche
from The New York Times, Country Weekend Cookbook

1 pound, small white button mushrooms
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & finely chopped
Coarse Salt
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
2 TBSP chopped fresh dill
1/4 finely minced red bell pepper

Place cleaned mushrooms in a bowl and toss with olive oil. In another bowl, combine the lemon juice, garlic, ginger, jalapeno and salt to taste. Mix well. Add the mushrooms and marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature.
After 30 minutes add the scallions and dill; marinate for an additional 30 minutes at room temperature. Check the seasoning, sprinkle with minced red pepper and serve.

Easy, 15 minutes of actual work and 1 hour of passive marinating time. The only problem is that if the mushrooms sit in the marinating liquid too long they'll become rubbery mouth puckering blobs. This is a good recipe, but it can't be made the night before. If you aren't going to eat this appetizer within 3 hours then I strongly urge you to drain off the excess liquid.

Crabby's Stuffed Mushrooms
adapted by Crabby from every stuffed mushroom recipe you've ever had.

1 pound large "gourmet" stuffing mushrooms, stems removed and saved
1 TBSP Butter
1/4 pound chorizo sausage, removed from casing and crumbled
1 shallot minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 cup Bread crumbs

Clean the mushrooms, removing and finely chopping the stems.

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushroom caps and leave undisturbed for 4 minutes. Turn the mushroom caps over so that the open hole faces downward and saute an additional 4 minutes. Transfer the caps, hole side down, to a plate covered with paper towels. This will allow any excess water to drain from the caps.

Reheat the saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot add the crumbled chorizo, breaking apart any large clumps. Saute for 2 minutes then add the minced shallot and jalapeno. Saute an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chopped mushroom stems and saute until the mushrooms have given up most of their water, approximately 3 - 5 minutes. Add the Marsala and scrape up any browned bits attached to the bottom of the pan, allow liquid to completely evaporate.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese, retaining the other half for garnish. Add bread crumbs and combine the mixture, stirring well. Allow mixture to cool slightly.

When cool, spoon a generous amount of the stuffing into each mushroom cap.

(The remainder of this recipe should be done at the final destination.)

Preheat a broiler. Top each mushroom with some of the remaining Parmesan. Place under a broiler to melt the cheese, depending on the strength on the broiler, this should take anywhere from 3 -10 minutes.

When the cheese has melted, serve.

This is a more involved recipe than the ceviche, but it's always been well received. One warning, this dish is very sensitive to the amount of liquid given off by the mushrooms so don't be afraid to use additional bread crumbs, you want a moist but not gluey consistency to the stuffing. Consider using Manchego cheese for a more Spanish/Mexican feel. Also, have some Tabasco on the side for those that like their appetizers a bit spicier.

That's it for now, until next time remember, you can do it, you can cook.


Maggie said...

I love the idea of ceviche with mushrooms. Have you tried it with any other mushroom? said...

Hi Maggie, No, I've only ever tried this with button mushrooms, though I don't see why it wouldn't work with crimini or some other smaller sized shroom. I'm not sure it would work with a big mushroom like a huge portobello, it would probably have to sit in the juice so long you'd risk a very tough, very tangy mushroom..

Maggie said...

Thanks for the reply. I'm going to try it with shitakis. said...

Good Luck with the shitakis. I suspect they won't need as long in the juice as the buttons. I'll reiterate my warning, you may want to rinse off the leftover mushrooms or add some olive oil to try and smooth out the taste. Too long in the acid is a mouth puckering experience.