Thursday, February 23, 2012

Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms--The Best Starter Ever

Last week I had my friends over, who have lived in Poland for four years and only later this year will be moving back from Poland to DC, so I wanted to serve something they do not eat in Poland too often.

The choice usually comes down to either a good fish or steaks. When they came first time during their week long visit, I made NY steaks. Unfortunately, it was very cold and extremely windy. I put steaks on the grill and hid home for a couple of minutes to warm up. Meanwhile, the wind made fire wild and steaks burned completely turning my menu into a culinary disaster. I hope my friends were sufficiently jet lagged not to remember that for too long.

So a week later when they came for the farewell dinner, I played it safely and prepared an oven-baked fish. It turned out great and I will share this recipe shortly. But I had no concept what to make for starter. Without a specific idea I bought very fresh looking portabella mushrooms, which are not available in Poland. At the last moment I decided to make a "whatever I have in the refrigerator" dish. I literally did. I took out the leftover Gorgonzola cheese, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and fresh parsley, all of which I almost always have in my refrigerator. In no time at all I made a colorful, and somewhat spicy thanks to the cheese, Mediterranean style stuffing. I baked mushrooms and served them with a warm baguette.

I had expected that all the classical Italian cuisine ingredients would make this dish taste good. But I did not expect that my friend would have called it the best starter he ever had. That was very sweet of him, but even more of a compliment as I know that sometimes, during the professional galas he attends, he gets to eat dinners at the Ritz-Carlton in a company of people like Bono or Ashley Judd.

I made this dish already twice. My first experiment worked better--when I covered mushrooms with the aluminum foil for the initial baking and opened it only for the last few minutes. It made mushrooms soft and the topping melted nicely. Second time, I baked them without the foil and the stuffing dried out a little bit too much and the tomatoes burned slightly. Luckily, I got them perfect on that first time when I cooked for my friends.

Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms
(Serves six)

6 Portabella mushrooms,
1/4 lb Gorgonzola cheese,
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (either dry or in oil),
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves,
1/4 cup roasted pine nuts,
2 tbsp bread crumbs,
2 tbsp olive oil,
freshly ground pepper to taste.

1. Preheat oven to 370F.
2. Wash mushrooms and dry them gently with paper towel. Remove stems.
3. In a medium bowl place Gorgonzola and with fingers make small crumbles.
4. Chop sun-dried tomatoes and add to cheese. If you use dry tomatoes, pour also 2-3 tbsp olive oil. If you used tomatoes in oil you do not need to put any extra oil.
5. Add breadcrumbs, pine nuts, parsley, and pepper. Mix all the ingredients until they make a sticky paste. Divide it equally between mushrooms.
6. Pour one tbsp of olive oil at a bottom of a medium baking tin and place mushrooms on it.

7. Cover the tin with the aluminum foil and put it in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.

Serve with a fresh baguette.


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