The tag for this post is “what I did for love”. Or more accurately, for denial and disfunctional love. Otherwise, there is no answer to the question, “Why would a vegetarian with a talent for tasty veggie cooking make these pork-based artery busters for her family at, of all times, Christmas?”
My father made these every year as a much-anticipated start to the Christmas feast at our home. When their marriage ended in an especially ugly way, my mother was happy to have all reminders of him purged from our home, especially at the holiday. Instead, the vegetarian trucked out from Porter Square and made the mushrooms (and carved the turkey)… mostly because other people really liked the mushrooms. No, really. As in, they would schedule their arrival based on when they expected the mushrooms to be cool enough to eat. Even my mother ate two or three that very day, and I’ve been thanking pigs for their sacrifices every Christmas since.
Sausage-stuffed Baked Mushrooms
Highbrow cooks may want to tweak the origin/branding of the raw materials, but it can’t guarantee better results. My one experience with real reggiano was a complete waste of cheese for me and the diners. The warm fat from the sausage and butter, along with the smack of salt and cakey stuffing, is what keeps people coming back for more.
If you have leftovers, chop and use them as the base for a low-brow bolognese.
- One pound fresh white button mushrooms, preferably 2″ in diameter
- One 4 oz stick of butter, preferably unsalted
- One medium yellow onion, diced
- One pound tube of commercial breakfast sausage, such as Jimmy Dean
- about 1.5 cups of “Italian” or seasoned breadcrumbs (not homemade)
- One 8 oz can (yes, I did say can) or tub of grated parmesan cheese
Preheat conventional oven to 375 degrees F.
Stem and clean the mushrooms. Reserve the stems and chop finely. Place the mushroom caps on a foil-lined cookie sheet.
Heat the butter in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is completely melted, add the onion and mushroom stems. Cook until onions turn translucent and soft.
Cut the wrapper off the sausage tube and add the meat to the sauteed onion and mushrooms. You want to use a fork or spatula to break up the sausage into something closer to ground meat. Cook until mostly grey, and do not drain.
Take off the heat, and add breadcrumbs and grated cheese until the mixture will hold a loose ball. You may not need all of the breadcrumbs and cheese, as it’s truly a matter of preference.
Once you have a moldable but not stiff mixture, use a teaspoon to ladle stuffing into each mushroom cap. You may need to revisit the stuffing skillet for big caps. Once all the caps are stuffed, sprinkle generously with grated cheese and slide into the oven for anywhere from 30-45 minutes.
Start checking at the 30 minute mark with a sharp, thin-bladed knife. You want the cap to be tender, but not mushy. Let coo
kl for about 10 minutes before serving, then get your defibrillator ready.