Saturday, November 26, 2011

Spicy Lamb-Stuffed Mushrooms

Gentle reader, I would be the first person to say that Thanksgiving is not the time to experiment with new dishes. Duh, you don’t want something to fail miserably on the biggest food day of the year, when a crowd is depending on you to provide for them. However, a dish that The Beez and I came up with last Thanksgiving was a huge hit that became an instant family classic.

Last year we came up with the idea of a stuffed-mushroom appetizer with a ground-lamb-based filling. In a wacky-sitcom-ish occurrence, unbeknownst to each other, The Beez and I both added hot spice to the mix as it was sautéing on the stove top. So it ended up being reeeally spicy. But everyone loved it and agreed we should make it again, and so we did.

After winging the preparation last year without writing anything down, we freestyled it again this year, with The Beez suggesting the addition of feta cheese, which proved awesome. The spice balance is up to you, but these definitely work nicely with a little heat. You may end up with some extra filling which you can save (to reheat and eat in a pita or over rice) or just eat with a spoon out of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 400°. (Or you can make the mushroom filling and stuff the mushrooms a day or two in advance, store the shrooms on a baking sheet in the fridge, and throw them straight into a preheated oven whenever you’re ready.)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add about 2 T olive oil and swish the pan around by the handle so the oil coats the surface.

Add about 1 lb. ground lamb and 1 small- to medium-size onion, diced, to the skillet. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Break up lamb by stabbing with a wooden spoon.

As it cooks, wash 16 oz. (2 boxes) mushrooms (I prefer cremini, but white are fine) and remove stems. Dice stems and add to lamb sauté; stir to mix.

Add minced garlic to taste (a lot is recommended) along with paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, and/or chili powder to taste—go easy, and you can always add more. Stir and continue cooking.

Once the lamb looks more brown than gray (this is probably about 10-15 minutes from when you first put it in the pan), turn off the heat, then add to the pan a couple handfuls minced fresh parsley and about 3–4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled. (A handful of pine nuts would be good too.) Stir to mix.

Spoon some lamb mixture into each mushroom top, pressing down the filling with the back of the spoon to pack it. Place the mushroom caps on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Again, you will probably have a lot of filling; I suggest going around filling each mushroom modestly and then doing a second loop to add more based on how much you have left. Yes, this is an extra step, but it will ensure even distribution.

Cook at 400° for about 10-15 minutes or until the shroom caps look wrinkly and give off liquid.

Arrange the mushrooms on a serving platter and, if you desire, garnish them with more minced parsley and/or crumbled feta.

For the second Thanksgiving in a row, everyone raved about these apps, and they have already made it onto the Christmas menu. Take this recipe and make it your own, and don’t be afraid that you’ll make it too spicy.

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