Magic Mushrooms

December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

I am a failure at crafts.  Let us make no bones about this.

It’s not because I can’t DO them — because time and time again, I have demonstrated my ability to produce — it is more that I do not care.  In fact, I less than do not care.  The very word “scrapbooking” causes me to break out in hives.  I very much admire people who have the intestinal fortitude to have craft rooms with customised spice racks where they store their glitter.  And ribbon.  And die cuts.  And stickers.

The finished product that these crafters produce is almost inevitably beautiful.  But I simply do not understand the desire to create these things.  I am someone who is constantly fighting clutter; whose ex-husband tortured her for years over the presence of a large Lego collection.  (“Collection” is another of those words that gives me hives.)

If I had to list the things that I do not ever want in my house, glitter would probably rank #1, and a “collection” of any kind ranks a close #2.  When I was first single, and I would go out with people, one of the first questions I would ask was “So, do you collect anything?”

I learned a lot about people that way.  I also learned what to stay the hell away from (i.e., generations-worth of accumulated Geisha-themed matryoshka dolls; “not to brag, but possibly the largest amateur collection of Victorian post-mortem photography in Connecticut;” and an impressive grouping of crystal door knobs).

That said, I’m not above making things.  But those things tend to be edible. Because as a New Yorker, not only do I have a low tolerance for “stuff,” but I also have almost no room for it.

On Saturday night, I threw my annual Christmas party, and made a good number of the hors d’oevres.  As a cook, I have two specialties — desserts, and appetizers.  The food on Saturday seemed to be well-received, and the round-up included mostly old standbys of mine.  But I made a new dish, which got rave reviews:

Stuffed Mushrooms (adapted slightly from a Williams-Sonoma receipe)

Ingredients:

Approx 3 doz Cremini mushrooms, cleaned (you can use white button mushrooms if you prefer) (this is non-scientific, btw — if you use more, you use more, if you use less, you use less)
2 tbs Italian flat-leaf parsley (fresh)
1 tsp sage (fresh)
2 tbs plain breadcrumbs
2 large cloves garlic (you can use more, or less but I found this makes it too garlicky, or not garlicky enough — 2 worked just right)
Approx 2 tbs Parmesan cheese (roughly 1 tbs for the stuffing, and 1 reserved to sprinkle on the mushrooms once prepped for baking — NOTE: if you are like me, you may need more.  A LOT MORE.)
Salt & pepper to taste
3-4 oz proscuitto or serrano ham, chopped
3 tbs sour cream
White wine (optional, to taste)

Materials:

Stock pot or saucepan
Steamer basket
Greased baking dish (9×13 may do it — depends on the size of mushrooms)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

First, trim the stems of the mushrooms to remove any woodsy parts.  Then remove the stems.*  Finely chop stems and reserve chopped stems for the stuffing mixture.

*(I have found that it is easier to pull the stems off, rather than chop them off, as this creates a small indentation which makes it better to fill the mushrooms later.  But suit yourself.)

Once stems are removed, place the mushroom caps in a steamer basket (or mesh collander, if you’re me, and your ex-husband took the steamer baskets) over simmering water.  Steam the caps for approximately 3 mins, then place caps in a baking dish.

Take the finely-chopped stems, and combine with herbs, garlic, breadcrumbs, 1 tbs Parmesan and ham.  Fold in sour cream.  The mixture should come together like a soft dough.  If for some reason the mixture is dry, add a splash of white wine, or a small amount of sour cream.

You should now have a bowl of stuffing, and a pan of mushroom caps.  Generously fill the mushroom caps with the stuffing (I used a small kitchen spoon for this task.  Sprinkle the stops of the stuffed mushrooms with parmesan, and drizzle white wine in the baking pan.*

*NOTE:  I preferred to put more cheese on for baking than the recipe calls for, and I also sprinkled additional breadcrumbs on top.  This gave the mushrooms a great additional crunch.  Or at least, that’s what my tasters said.  I am a vegetarian.

Bake for approx 30 mins at 400F, or until caps are golden brown.

**********

Making food for friends reminds me, always, about the community of people I have come into, and how grateful I am to have a seat at this table.  I will always make you food; I will always whip up some of my famous chili dip, or create a dessert that makes some weak in the knees.

I will not, however, take my photos from the meal and make you a souvenir booklet commemorating the night.  I have to draw the line somewhere.  And that somewhere is glitter.

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