I am often asked by guests staying or dining with us if specific recipes are in my cookbook and often my answer is “kind of.” Not a good answer I suppose but an honest one. I view recipes as guidelines that can be deviated from and played with. So I usually get a basic recipe that works, write it down and then mess around with it. I guess you could say I get easily bored or you could say that I like to be creative in the kitchen. Either way, the result is that I never make a recipe the same exact way twice.
Part of this involves availability of ingredients and what is fresh. Because I like to support local organic farms I often base my specific recipe on any given day on what I can get from those farms. While a recipe may call for spinach, if the farm has kale or arugula, I’ll use it and find a way to make it work. Keeps things fresh and keeps me on my toes.
The other part of it is that I like to keep things new for repeat guests. We do get a lot of repeat guests and I want to keep them coming back for different and exciting things. If it is the same every time, they will get bored, so this is my opportunity to keep them guessing and keep them coming back for more.
With that in mind, this last weekend I happened to have a group of regulars coming for a special dinner party for their co-workers. I had served sausage stuffed mushrooms many times for them and others and I love my recipe but I felt like tweaking a bit. So I shook things up a bit and came up with a new version. I wouldn’t necessarily say improved, just slightly different. I’ll continue making both versions as they are both quite popular. Here are both recipes. Try them both, play with them and remember, keep it fresh. One of the safest places to try something new is in the kitchen. The worst that could happen is that you may not like something, but don’t let that stop your creativity. Your taste buds will appreciate you.
Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
Begin by browning the sausage with some Italian seasoning in a medium saucepan over medium high heat for approx. 10 minutes or until no pink remains. If the sausage is very fatty, drain before assembling. If the sausage is only a little fatty, keep the juices as they will keep the mushrooms moist. Cool filling completely before assembling mushrooms. Place mushroom caps in a greased casserole and sprinkle with vermouth or sherry. Combine sausage with cream cheese, parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, garlic powder and egg. Make sure the filling is well combined. It is easiest to use your hands for this process. Fill each mushroom cap with approx. 1 Tbl filling until all the filling has been utilized. Sprinkle each cap with more grated parmesan. Place mushrooms in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake approx. 25 mins or until the tops begin to turn golden. Serve hot.
Revised Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
Yields: 12 Servings
1 lb bulk sausage
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 small sweet peppers, minced
2 tsps truffle oil
1 Tbl Herbes de Provence
1/4 cup dry sherry
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch Freshly Ground Pepper
1 tsp anchovy paste
8 oz mascarpone
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbl chopped italian parsley
2 Tbl chopped cilantro
24 stuffer mushrooms, stems removed and peeled
Place mushrooms on baking sheet. Place sausage in saute pan and begin browning over medium high heat. Add onion and continue sauteeing until tender, approx. 5 mins. Add garlic and heat for one minute or until fragrant. Add peppers, truffle oil, herbes de provence, anchovy paste, nutmeg, pepper and wine. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the sausage is cooked through. Add parsley and cilantro and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Allow to cool completely. Add mascarpone and parmesan cheeses as well as egg and combine well. Fill each mushroom cap generously. Bake at 375 degrees for approx. 15-20 mins or until the filling is golden brown on top. Serve garnished with a little balsamic reduction.