It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving. Chances are, you’re expecting one of two things from this post: a clever use-up for leftovers, or an antidote to last week’s indulgence.
Sorry. Not today.
Today, I’m all about stuffing vegetables with meat. And when I say vegetables, I mean mushrooms. And when I say meat, I mean sausage.
Oven-roasted mushrooms are great on their own. Sausage, in almost any form, is great on its own. But when they combine, the result is somehow even greater than the sum of its parts. The meat nestles perfectly into the mushroom cap, which molds gently around it in the oven. As the mushroom bakes, it exudes liquid–savory, salty, intensely rich liquid–that bathes the sausage and keeps it moist underneath. Cut into it, and the layers of chewy meat and tender mushroom reveal themselves. Umami is definitely the word that comes to mind.
Not bad for two ingredients and five minutes’ prep.
Of course, there’s more than one way to stuff a mushroom. But you’re not going to get much easier than this. Stem some ‘shrooms (creminis if you want to be dainty, portobellos if you don’t), then take the casings off a few Italian sausages and mash the meat into the concave side of the caps. Season as you like–I’m a big fan of salt, coarse ground black pepper, smoked paprika and Parm. Bake until the whole thing bubbles and glistens, then grab your nearest steak knife and fork. Lunch.
As with anything this simple, the quality of the ingredients matters. Fresh, organic mushrooms will taste better than plastic-packed ones. Good-quality artesanal sausage will taste better than the mass-produced kind. If you wanted to get really fancy, you could even make your own sausage and skip the bother with the casings altogether. And, of course, fresh-grated Parm is always a nicer touch than the stuff in the green-lidded shaker.
All that being said, though–I’ve made this with farmer’s market mushrooms and handcrafted Sicilian sausage, and I’ve made it with supermarket-sale mushrooms and Italian sausage from a tube. It’s freaking fantastic either way. Not to mention economical, crowd-pleasing, gluten-free and just about idiot-proof.
Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms (serves 2)
2 portobello mushrooms, or 6 cremini (baby bella) mushrooms
3 links raw Italian sausage (sweet or hot, as you prefer)
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
Smoked paprika to taste (optional)
1 – 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste
Preheat oven to 350º F, and line a baking dish or deep-sided baking sheet with aluminum foil. Stem the mushrooms (save the stems–they’re edible, and great in soups). Wipe the tops of the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth, and place stem-side up on the foil-lined baking vessel.
Remove the casing from the sausage links. Distribute the sausage meat evenly into the mushroom caps–a link and a half for each portobello mushroom, or half a link for each cremini. Pat the sausage meat down lightly to form a solid mass. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika (if using), then top with Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the sausage is cooked through and the juices are bubbling. Remove from the oven, let sit for 5-10 minutes, then serve with a slice of crusty bread to mop each plate.
Oh, and don’t throw out the juices in the baking dish, either. If you happen to have about a cup of corn kernels on hand–fresh or frozen–toss them in a frying pan with some olive oil over medium heat, and pour in the mushroom juices. Saute for a couple minutes, just until the liquid reduces into a glaze, then serve alongside the mushrooms as a gorgeous smoky-sweet side dish.