I blame my mother for this. She just had to take us to Italiannis’ and just had to order the stuffed mushrooms. We all ended up hooked – hopelessly hooked, as a matter of fact. We’d usually go trooping over for these sinful dumpling-esque delights once a month, but a recent visit made us all recoil in horror. Imagine: P 450.00 for three niminy-piminy mushrooms practically swimming in a vat of tomato-streaked bechamel sauce! That price was fine when they served four fat mushies practically smothered in truffle-infused beef, but the recession notwithstanding, that was too much!
It was fortunate that I decided to do something about this atrocity over the weekend. If my family was going to enjoy stuffed mushrooms ever again, I would have to start making them at home!
I was lucky to find huge Australian button mushrooms, the biggest of which was a bit bigger than my palm, over at Santi’s at the Festival Supermall. I considered using portobellos for the dish, but had to back off the idea when I saw that one huge mushroom cost as much as a pack of four Australian buttons! (Pack of 3 or 4 buttons = P 143.00; one portobello mushroom = P 143.50.)
Since I didn’t have the black truffle pesto that gave the original dish much of its savor, I decided to use substitutes that would be every bit as flavorful – if not more so. Instead of beef, I used my recipe for homemade pork sausage patties flavored with sage and thyme. (Incidentally, I added the finely minced mushroom stems to the sausage mix; it considerably amped up the flavor.) I gave it a bit of tomato flavor by spreading a scant teaspoon of sun-dried tomato pesto on top of each mushroom before pouring over the bechamel sauce.
To say that my family went mad for this dish would be a serious understatement. I wouldn’t make this every single day, though; it is much too fiddly to be a weekday meal. But as a weekend treat? I wouldn’t say no, and neither should you.
Stuffed Mushrooms au Gratin
For the Mushrooms:
- 7 – 8 large Australian button mushrooms or large shiitake mushrooms, caps reserved and stems minced finely
- 1/4 kilo ground pork
- 1/2 teaspoon fine [iodized] salt
- 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- scant dash of ground pepper
For the Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
For the Topping:
- approximately 1/4 cup sun–dried tomato pesto or tomato paste
- 1/2 cup grated cheese
Combine the pork, minced mushroom stems, salt, sage, thyme, and pepper. Spoon the resulting mixture into the mushroom caps. Place the filled mushroom caps on a toaster tray and heat in an oven toaster for about eight minutes. Form any remaining sausage mixture into balls and fry in a little oil till browned; set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees / Gas Mark 5.
In a saucepan, cook the butter, flour, and Italian seasoning till well-combined. Add the milk and stir till thickened; set aside.
Spread about a 1/2 teaspoon of pesto onto each stuffed mushroom cap. Place the mushrooms and the meatballs in a medium-sized baking dish. Pour the bechamel sauce evenly over the mushrooms and meatballs. Sprinkle over the grated cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Serves 6 – and then some… 😉