Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving test-run: stuffed mushrooms

Like a lot of you, I've got Thanksgiving on the brain, 24-7. It's been that way for about a week or two, ever since we got the wonderful news that our L.A. friends, Claire and John, plus their two kids and one dog, will be joining us for the holiday. We've also got some other fabulous friends coming (and their dog) plus my mom, of course. So in a matter of a few days, our Thanksgiving went from a small, maybe-no-turkey affair to seven adults, two children, and three dogs.

I know some of you host much larger dinners, but for us, this is big. And exciting!

I've mentioned Claire before; she's an old friend. We've been through a lot together but these days are bound primarily by our shared ridiculous sense of humor and our mutual love of food. If there are better things to adhere a friendship, I can't imagine what they would be.

We've been having a grand time planning the menu. Appetizers have been a great topic of discussion. I originally asked Claire, who is from Texas, if she would make her famous cheese pennies, which she agreed to do, in two flavors (plain and smoked paprika). She then suggested another dish which I can't help but think of as uniquely Texan: pink onion Earl dip served with Fritos and gherkins.

"Or midget pickles," she mused thoughtfully as I stared at the phone in disbelief. I was still mentally digesting Fritos as part of a recipe. Midget pickles?

She's also making Cajun pecans, and something she keeps referring to as a Pickle Plate. My understanding is that this is not simply a plate of pickles, midget and otherwise, but various vegetables, pickled. It's actually a good idea to have something tart and briny next to the richness of sweet potatoes and gravy.

Lest you think I am simply pretending to host Thanksgiving while forcing my friend to cook everything, I am indeed going to cook a few things, though not a lot in the way of snacks. My meager contribution to the appetizer table is going to be stuffed mushrooms. I had the idea that this was something fun and festive and simple to make; plus they can be served at room temperature. After a little searching, I decided on this recipe from Ina Garten.

I tested it last night, subbing chicken-garlic-basil sausage for the pork sausage, since Claire and her family aren't huge meat eaters.

The mushooms turned out nearly perfect. I am definitely going to make these for Thanksgiving, only I won't stuff them as full as Ina suggests. It made them a little tough to eat. And, I may opt for smaller mushrooms. Although big ones are easier to work with on the front-end, little ones are better for eating.

I hope you all are having fun planning your Thanksgiving dinner. There's much to think about, even just when it comes to the turkey:  Organic or free range? Stuffing or dressing? To brine or not to brine? However, in the midst of all the chaos, I think even the fussiest cooks are usually able to lighten up and appreciate the real centerpiece of the holiday: being together. And pie.


  1. Oh, how I love stuffed mushrooms! We're planning a low-key Thanksgiving this year, just us and two friends. I'm actually really looking forward to it.

  2. Oh yeah, all about the pie. Well one of the two I actually like.

    I was trying to find something clever to say about being politically correct and calling the 'short pickles' but it just didn't sound funny in my head....

    We go to our neightbor's house every year for the last 4 years. She bakes one and deep fries one and does the spuds. The rest of us bring the sides. I am doing a baked Brie, my 2 Corn casserole and a dessert that I haven't decided on yet.

    I hope you have a wonderful holiday with all of your loved ones (and the furry ones too) are gathered around your table.

  3. Sounds like the beginning of a great dinner! I liked how the stuffing crusted up nicely in your first try! And I actually do like gherkins, both for how cute they are and the sweet pickle taste.

  4. I'm cooking too, but fortunately Mr. K has stepped up to the plate and is going to brine and air dry (as seen in the Chronicle the last week or so) our bird, then butterfly rather than stuff. I ordered an organic bird, last time I spent 150 on a heritage bird and felt like a chump! Those shrooms look delicious, and I love the sound of those appetizers.

  5. camille: I love doing low-key thanksgivings--that is usually what we have. Sometimes it's nice to mix it up though when the occasion presents itself!

    tamilyn: tell me more about this two corn casserole!

    Ben: I like gherkins too, mostly b/c of their mini-ness.

    foodhoe: Impressive. I actually wish someone else was interested in doing the turkey as it is the least interesting to me,but since I am hosting it is only right that I take it on. Hope it turns out ok.

  6. Is this a new Ina recipe? I tried something like this last year and we didn't like them. But when I read through your ingredients, I love what I saw. Wonder what I did wrong?? Maybe the sausage?

  7. i could go for a pickle plate...maybe. :)
    meanwhile, i'm not too keen on mushrooms, but my goodness, these are lovely! seriously--they definitely deliver aesthetically. well done.

  8. Wow, that is a whole lot of stuffing in that mushroom! Looks very yummy. Have lots of fun at your Thanksgiving "do",, and that pickle plate sounds good actually (I am a pickle fiend). Laughing very hard at politically incorrect pickle name too ;P

  9. Barbara: I don't think it's new. The sausage could make a big difference. I'd actually like to try it with the pork sausage as the recipe calls for. This ended up a little on the garlicky side.

    grace: yeah, pickle plate.

    shaz: Thanks! It's my favorite holiday, I'm sure it will be tons of fun.

  10. And pie! But you did have me laughing about pink earl dip with gherkins. Ewww. Your mushrooms look great. I'm putting the menu and shopping list together today. Enjoy.

  11. The stuffed mushrooms sound and look amazing!
    Cant wait to hear how your Thanksgiving extravaganza turns out!
    *kisses* HH

  12. Happy Thanksgiving to you, family and friends that are going to gather around your table this holiday. I think you are going to have some unique dishes that are going to be enjoyed. It's awesome.

    Ina's stuffed mushrooms can never go wrong. Delicious!!

    btw, I am still writing my list for the Thanksgiving menu (sigh)

  13. Fantastic foto!
    Have a lovely holiday feast with your friends and all the hungry dogs.

  14. The mushrooms look scrumptious (to use Kate's new favorite word). My go-to recipe is Marcella's and, of course, it involves pancetta.

  15. agrigirl: Thanks! I actually can't wait to try the earl dip...

    HH: Thank you!

    Velva: Happy Thanksgiving to you too! Enjoy the long weekend.

    cookiecrumb: Thanks! And to you as well.

    Jary: I should check that one out, is it in the Classics?

  16. You can never go wrong with stuffed mushrooms. They get devoured in a heart-beat. Their earthy flavors just rev you up for the main course to come.

  17. Those mushrooms look so good....I have most of Ina's cookbooks and that must be from one I don't own. Can't wait to see the full menu/spread. Things are easy for us this year...we are just bring sides. Roasted cauliflower with Indian spices and stuffing of some sort! Happy Thanksgiving.

  18. CJ: I agree, they are a great appetizer!

    ALY: I like the sound of the cauliflower-hope you post it on your blog. Happy Thanksgiving!