Hey all! Here’s my latest installment of “Food 101,” which was published in The Orange County Register today.
Now that the Superbowl is right around the corner, how about treating your friends and family to a super appetizer along with those obligatory chips, dip and wings?
Crab-stuffed mushrooms only look difficult to make. A large tray with an army of mini sized appetizers, each little soldier with a browned, bubbling cheese crust only suggests that you’ve painstakingly slaved over them for days. Really, the most work you’ve done is chop up some vegetables and spoon filling into some mushroom caps.
Don’t let the ingredient list intimidate you, either. The bulk of it is just vegetables and cheeses that you will cook and mix together in a large bowl. All of these ingredients can be found in your neighborhood supermarket, even the jarred crab meat (check the fresh seafood display).
And if you really want to impress your friends, make sure to grab some lemons while at the store. Ever wonder why lemon wedges are served alongside fish? It’s because their tartness brightens the subtle, sweet flavors in seafood. You can experiment for yourself: Once the stuffed mushrooms have cooled slightly, pop one in your mouth and observe the taste: it’s good, right? Now sprinkle some lemon juice on a second stuffed mushroom and munch on that. Pow! Flavors are instantly enhanced, and you can really taste that crab.
For this recipe, you will need a large bowl, large frying or sauté pan, and a baking pan – maybe two. You can also prepare the filling a day ahead of time. Just make sure to refrigerate and cover with plastic wrap. (Click on “Read the rest of this entry” for recipe.)
Yield: 10 to 12 appetizer servings
- 2 pounds button or baby Portobello mushrooms
- 1/2 medium onion
- 1/2 red bell pepper
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 jar (6 to 8 ounces) crab meat
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1 to 2 lemons, cut into wedges
1. Clean dirt and debris from mushrooms by wiping them with a damp paper towel or rinsing them under running water in a strainer. Let them dry for a few minutes, and then pull off the mushroom stems from their caps (these pop right off). Set the mushroom caps aside.
2. This next step is where you get to hone your chopping skills. You will need to chop the mushroom stems, onion, bell pepper and garlic as finely as possible without turning them into mush. The fancy term for this is mincing, which you’ve most likely heard. So, mince the vegetables until you’ve got what looks like tiny mosaic tiles all over your cutting board.
3. Once you’re done with that, place the butter in the frying pan on the stove over high heat. When the butter is melted and hot, dump in all your minced veggies and cook them for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the liquid from the mushrooms is mostly evaporated. Stir occasionally.
4. Add the crab meat, salt and pepper to the pan, and cook for a minute or two, just enough to heat the crab through. When it’s good to go, scrape the whole mixture into a bowl and let it cool for at least 20 minutes, or until it’s cool to the touch.
5. Next, add in the cream cheese, egg yolk and half of the Parmesan cheese. Mix it thoroughly with a wooden spoon or whatever you have handy at the moment. If you are making the filling a day in advance, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator. For those forging ahead, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
6. Using a tablespoon, scoop a little bit of the crab mixture from the bowl and pack it down gently into a mushroom cap. Place the stuffed mushroom on your baking pan. You want a well-rounded mound of crab and cream cheese goodness on top. Repeat with the rest of the mushroom caps, then sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan cheese for a topping.
7. Bake the stuffed mushrooms for 25 minutes. You’ll know they’re ready when the Parmesan cheese on top is a light golden brown. Remove the pan(s) from the oven.
8. Before serving, cut the lemon into wedges and sprinkle a few drops of lemon juice onto each mushroom cap. Or, you can serve them on a tray with the lemon wedges and let your friends sprinkle on the lemon juice themselves. Enjoy!
– Cynthia Furey