I love stuffed mushrooms.
I have amazing memories of my parents making them for dinner parties when I was little. And me ignoring the guests entirely and eating far too many of them.
For some reason, I associate stuffed mushrooms with my dad, though I'm not sure if that's because he usually made them or if he usually got in trouble for eating all of them before the guests came. It could quite possibly be both.
In my house, stuffed mushrooms were an excuse to eat cheese and sausage. Jimmy Dean sausage to be exact. No mushroom really found its true purpose until it was overflowingly stuffed with sausage and cheese.
But I am now older. And I have friends that don't have that same idyllic love of ground pork that my parents instilled into me. Things need to be "vegetarian friendly".
Though that's by no means a downside. Cheese is still a wonderful thing. And there's walnuts. Mmmmm. Walnuts.
So while these are technically "vegetarian", they are also stinking delicious. No one needs to know that they are lacking in tasty animals.
Unless, of course, they don't like tasty animals. Then you can triumphantly tell them that these are stinking delicious. And vegetarian. Hah.
Start off with the mushrooms. Rinse the dirt off. Eww. Then use your fingers and pinch the stem. Twist slightly to pop it out. Once you figure it out, it goes really fast. Save the stems though. There's flavor there. Chop the dried out end off (aka the one that didn't come out of the mushroom cap) and dice the rest of the stem up. We're using it.
Let the cream cheese soften until it's at room temperature.
We happened to have a few of those red wax-covered babybel cheeses languishing in the fridge, so I diced them up and tossed them in with the cream cheese. You can use shredded mozz, monterey jack, or any other white cheese of your choosing.
Then add the mushroom stems, bread crumbs, chopped walnuts, smoked paprika, and cayenne.
Mix it all up and toss in the parsley and the garlic. Mmmmmm.
Spoon into the mushroom caps, mounding them a bit. Don't mound them too high or they'll melt over the sides of the mushroom cap.
Now for the incredible part - roll the filling side in parmesan shreds. This makes the nice crispy cheese crust on the top.
Bake for 25 minutes, and then turn the broiler on for 1-2 minutes, or until they are sufficiently brown on their tops.
Serve immediately. There should be no leftovers.
My illustrious Aunt Liz, chef extraordinare (No, really - she's an actual chef. Food runs in the family.) has made this suggestion:
Having made more stuffed mushrooms that I really care to think about, let me pass on a little tip that I was shown many more years ago than I really care to think about either: After removing stem, but before stuffing, poach the cap. I usually use half white wine, half water. This keeps the caps from drying out in the oven, so your finished product doesn't look all wrinkledy. I get the liquid steaming and pop the 'shrooms in for just a couple of minutes. Pull them out and drain open cap side down. Then have at it with the stuffing. There is marginal favor added, this is mainly for looks.
Thanks Aunt Liz! I'll try that next time.
And people - you realize that if she's just chiming in now, it means that I've probably done everything else on the blog somewhat close to the way it should be done... Eeeee! Wahooo!
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Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms
16 baby bella or white button mushrooms
1/2 block of cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. bread crumbs
3 babybel cheeses, diced (or a scant 1/4 c. of whatever white cheese you have around)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/3 tsp smoked paprika
3 tbsp chopped walnuts
1 large clove of garlic, diced
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 c. real parmesan cheese shreds
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse your mushrooms. Using your fingers, pinch the stems and twist slightly, popping them from the center of the mushroom where they're attached. It's easy once you get the hang of it. Save the stems. Slice off the end of the stem that was previously cut (aka not the end that just came off the mushroom cap). Dice the remaining stem.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the 1/2 block of cream cheese, mushroom stems, babybel cubes, bread crumbs, cayenne, smoked paprika, and walnuts. Stir until well mixed. Add the parsley, the garlic and the salt & pepper, mix till fully incorporated.
Use a spoon to mound the mushroom caps full of filling. Pour the parmesan out on a small plate. Roll the filled side of the mushroom cap in the parmesan. Place on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. If you want the tops to be golden, turn on the broiler and brown for a few minutes.