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TIP OF THE DAY: 30 Ideas For Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

For something delicious, impressive, healthful (except when loaded with cheese) and easy to make, we love meaty stuffed portabella mushrooms. We have our favorite fall transition recipes, as the lighter foods of summer transition to the heartier autumn and winter recipes.

Stuffed portables are so versatile.

  • They can be vegan, vegetarian or stuffed with ground meat or poultry.
  • They can be filled with scrambled eggs and kale for breakfast, used instead of English muffins for a twist on Eggs Benedict.
  • Substitute ‘shroom for bread: the bun of a burger, the slices for grilled cheese.
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    MUSHROOM COOKING TIPS

    To avoid sogginess:

    1. WIPE the mushrooms clean. Don’t wet them or or they’ll absorb water. You can use a slightly damp paper towel or a dry mushroom brush, which is softer than other vegetable brushes so it doesn’t bruise the delicate flesh.

    2. PRE-BROIL or pre-bake for 3 minutes or so, to release some of the mushroom’s natural water. Then stuff and return to the heat.

    3. COOK until the topping is just browned. Overcooking will release any remaining natural mushroom moisture into the your filling, as it dries out the mushroom.
     
    DIFFERENT STUFFINGS FOR PORTABELLAS

    Appetizers Or First Courses

  • Herbed goat cheese (garnish with croutons)
  • Mock onion soup: caramelized onions, croutons (or one large crouton) and gruyère (photo #4)
  • Pork or chicken sausage, spinach and smoked mozzarella; or lamb sausage with spinach and feta
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    Salads

  • Artichoke hearts (not marinated) and pimiento (roasted red pepper) with optional pepper jack cheese
  • Caprese: chopped tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, drizzled with EVOO
  • “Cheese course” (photo #4)
  • Corn and black bean salad
  • Israeli salad: chopped cucumbers, tomatoes
  • Mesclun/baby greens with garnishes of choice (photo #1)
  • Salad base (“edible salad bowl”): arugula, spinach (with bacon and chopped onions)
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    Sides

  • Caramelized onions and bacon (or variation: pork belly, proscuitto)
  • Cornbread stuffing, sausage and optional jalapeno
  • Grains: barley, pilaf, quinoa, risotto, wild rice, etc.
  • Gratins
  • Ratatouille
  • Mashed: cauliflower (photo #2), potatoes (photo #3), acorn/butternut squash
  • Pasta: orzo, soup pasta
  • Polenta, topped with shaved radicchio
  • Three bean salad
  • Dressing: bread cubes, onion, celery and anything else you add with the turkey dressing
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    Mains

  • Chicken cubes, broccoli florets and sundried tomatoes
  • Chicken salad with apples, celery, red onion and parsley or other favorite recipe (we like this curried chicken salad with grapes)
  • Grilled cheese: the mushroom becomes the toast
  • Leftovers: stretch short ribs, stew, whatever (photo #7)
  • Portabella “pizza,” with marinara sauce, mozzarella, and your favorite pizza toppings stuffed into the cap (photo #9—anchovies, anyone?)
  • Shredded pork or other protein, with barbecue sauce or other condiment
  • Seafood gratin (photo #8)
  • “Tacos,” with seasoned chopped beef or turkey, chopped tomatoes or drained pico de gallo, shredded lettuce, sour cream or grated/crumbled cheese and a tortilla strips garnish
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    CONSIDER…

  • Brush the caps with a flavored oil—basil, truffle, etc.—instead of olive oil spray.
  • Pay attention to seasonings. We’re big on fresh herbs.
  • Raw mushrooms can be used in salad preparations; but you can cook them if you prefer.
  • Garnish for fun and flavor, from breadcrumbs to pickled jalapeños.
  • Consider international focus, such as spinach, feta and oregano (with optional ground lamb), and curry, almonds and raisins.
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    RECIPE: SPINACH-STUFFED PORTABELLA MUSHROOMS

    Frozen spinach is a time saver in this easy recipe (photo #6, the bottom photo at right).

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 portabella mushroom caps
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan
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    Preparation

    1. PLACE the oven rack in the middle and preheat the broiler on the high setting. Line a baking sheet with foil.

    2. WIPE the mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel or a mushroom brush. Remove the stems and reserve for another purpose (eggs, salad, etc.). Spray the caps on both sides with the olive oil and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

    3. BROIL for 5 minutes on each side, or until just tender. While the mushrooms cook…

    4. DEFROST the spinach in the microwave according to package directions; place in a colander to drain. When cool enough to handle, press on the cooked spinach with your hands and extract as much water as possible out of it. Repeat this until you can extract more water (we wring it with our hands).

       
    Starters & Sides
    Salad-Stuffed Portobello Mushroom

    Mashed Cauliflower Stuffed Portabella

    Stuffed Portobello Mushroom

    Garlic-Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

    Portabella Gratinee

    Spinach Stuffed Portabella

    [1] Enjoy a small salad in a portabella cap. You don’t have to cook the cap, but you certainly can. Here’s the recipe from Pom Wonderful. [2] Cauliflower purée in a portabella cap, from The Purple Carrot. [3] Mushrooms gratin: Fill with shredded gruyère or other melting cheese. Here’s the original recipe from Urban Accents). We turned ours into mock onion soup, filling the cap with caramelized onions, gruyere croutons. [4] Who could turn down mashed potatoes and bacon? Here’s the recipe from Eat Wisconsin Cheese. [5] This starter or side from A Food Centric Life is filled with goat cheese, roasted tomatoes and lots of chopped herbs. We substituted garlic cloves for the goat cheese, and sprinkled on crumbled cheese when the ‘shrooms came out of the oven. [6] Easy spinach-stuffed portables from Healthy Recipes Blog.

     
    5. REMOVE the mushrooms from the oven. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat (about 3 minutes). Add the onion and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until golden stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, spinach, the rest of the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring to blend, for 1 to 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and cool a few minutes; then mix in the Parmesan.

    6. FILL the mushroom caps with the stuffing, piled high. Place back under the broiler on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, or until the filling is golden.

     

    Main Courses

    Turkey-Broccoli-Cheddar Portobello

    Portobello Pizza

    Lobster Stuffed Portobello

    [7] Toss together leftovers: here, turkey, broccoli and cheddar (photo courtesy Mushroom Info). [8] Turn portabellas into mini pizza (here’s the recipe from Picture The Recipe). [9] Lobster in a cream sherry sauce (photo courtesy Mushroom Council).

     

    IS IT PORTABELLA, PORTABELLO OR PORTOBELLO?
    AND THE HISTORY OF PORTABELLA MUSHROOMS

    How can one mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, have three different spellings? After all, chanterelle is chanterelle, morel is morel, porcini is porcini.

    The answer: When Americans began to grow and sell cremini mushrooms in southeastern Pennsylvania in the 1960s, it was a very small output. The growers were largely from Italy, and grew the creminis they missed from the old country.

    A 1996 article in Nation’s Restaurant News noted that initially there was no market for the creminis. The public wanted pristine white mushrooms. Fortunately, the back-to-earth movement of the 1960s and 1970s opened the door for the growers to make another stab at selling them.

    According to Food Timeline, food experts generally agree on these points when it comes to the history of portabellas:

  • By accident, growers found that creminis that weren’t harvested grew into extra-large mushrooms (what became known as portabellas). These large mushrooms are here today despite early efforts to thwart them.
  • Both cremini and portobello mushrooms are first mentioned in the New York Times during the mid 1980s. The growers named the new variety. Portabella means “beautiful door; portobello means “beautiful port.”
  • In a 1996 article in Nation’s Restaurant News on the growing popularity of portabellas, Wade Whitfield of the Mushroom Council, an industry trade group, noted, “They are really culls. You didn’t want them in the mushroom bed. [Growers] would throw them away. There was no market. Growers would take them home.”
  • Whitfield then noted: “This thing has gone from nearly zero in 1993 to a predicted 30 million pounds this year. It’s a major item. It will be the largest specialty mushroom.”
  • According to The New Food Lover’s Companion, “‘portobello’ began to be used in the 1980s as a brilliant marketing ploy to popularize an unglamorous mushroom that, more often than not, had to be disposed of because growers couldn’t sell them.”
  • There is no definitive spelling. According to Food Timeline, an un-scientific Google survey at one point showed that portobello got the most searches (169,000), followed by portabella (33,100) and portobella (3,510). Wade Whitfield noted The Mushroom Council preferred “portabella”; we use “portabella” because we prefer how it rolls off the tongue.
  • We must point out, vis-a-vis the spelling variations of portabella, that cremini is also spelled crimini, and also called the brown mushroom, Italian brown mushroom and Roman mushroom. Newer marketing names including baby portobellos, mini bellas and portabellinis. “Baby Bella” is a trademarked name.
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    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MUSHROOMS IN OUR MUSHROOM GLOSSARY.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Back To Butter, Now OK To Eat

    Butter - Lard

    Butter A Rich History

    Bowl Of Butter

    Bread and Butter

    [1] Butter and lard: out of the shadows and back onto the table (photo courtesy A Canadian Foodie). [2] Butter lovers will enjoy Butter, A Rich History. Also check out Nourishing Fats: Why We Need Animal Fats for Health and Happiness.

     

    If your new year’s resolution includes cutting back on butter, you might re-think it. After years of being shunned as a contributor to heart disease, butter is in again.

    Recorded use of butter dates to 2,000 years B.C. (the history of butter).

    At butter’s peak in the 1920s, annual per capita consumption in the U.S. was 18 pounds about 72 sticks. At its nadir, in 1992, with research reports giving it the thumbs-down, per capita consumption dropped to 4 pounds.

    As recently as 2006, margarine sales outpaced butter’s. For those on a budget, margarine was/is $1 to $2 per pound less expensive.
     
    THE HISTORY OF MARGARINE

    In 1913, French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul discovered margaric acid; but it was not turned into a foodstuff until much later.

    Commercial margarine was invented in France in the 1860s, when Emperor Napoleon III offered prize money to whomever could find a cheaper substitute for butter, to feed the army and the poor.

    A French chemist, Hippolyte Mège-Mouriés, took the prize by inventing oleomargarine, an imitation butter made from refined vegetable oil and water. He patented it in 1869.

    Yet, while margarine was served to the army, it never took off in France: The French knew which side their bread was buttered on (the history of margarine).

    The good news: He sold the patent to the U.S. Dairy Company in 1871. Butter became very expensive during the Great Depression, and World War II rationed the supply, as dairy farmers went off to war. Margarine came into its own.
     
    LEAVING BUTTER BEHIND: THE 1980s

    Margarine never passed through the doors of our mother’s house. Her palate would only accept the best creamery butter, plus lard for her lauded pie crusts.

    When we first tasted margarine on bread in the college cafeteria, we agreed: Better no bread spread than one of vegetable oil.

    To those who can taste the difference, there is no substitute for butter in baking. We could tell at first bite if a cookie or cake was not made with butter…and tossed it.

    But it was the attribution of heart disease to animal fats that caused many people to back off of butter. Beginning in the 1980s, Americans were programmed by mass media reports to equate butter and fat with heart disease and poor health, and to head to low fat diets.

    Fortunately, research pointed to heart-healthy olive oil as an alternative, and many of us decamped to EVOO.

    But over the past few years, new research has deflated the biggest myths about cholesterol. It’s OK to eat an egg every day, and to butter your bread. And you need at least a tablespoon a day of butter or oil for skin and hair health. Add a second tablespoon of EVOO for heart health.

    These studies have shown that consuming butter (within reason, as with any food) is not bad for you, but is actually beneficial (source).

    Butter is full of vitamins and healthy fatty acids that help prevent tooth decay, cancer and even obesity (!). [NOTE: THE NIBBLE is not a medical expert. Consult with yours if you have questions or issues.]

    Animal fats are no longer demonized, at roughly the same time as plant-based trans fats were removed from the marketplace. The result: an animal fat renaissance.

    Americans have responded to the news. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, per capita consumption rose to 23 sticks of butter, the highest quantity since World War II.

    And many restaurants never left it behind. Today, animal fats are more popular than ever. Chefs are cooking with not just butter, but with beef tallow, duck fat, even schmaltz—rendered chicken fat that was a mainstay of European Jewish cooking.

    Yes, chefs know that the secret to great flavor often lies in animal fat. So consult with your healthcare provider, and safely enjoy your share in the new year.
     
    OUR FAVORITE BUTTERS

    Do your own taste test; but in ours, the winners were, in alphabetical order:

  • Cabot Creamery (Vermont)
  • Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter (imported)
  • Plugrá (European-style butter made in the U.S. with 82% butterfat vs. the standard 80%)
  • Organic Valley (U.S.)
  • Vermont Creamery Cultured* Butter (our personal favorite)
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    Depending on your preference for unsalted or salted butter, your favorites may vary.

    There are other great butters made in the U.S., including regional and artisan butters such as Kate’s Homemade Butter from Maine. But they are made in small quantities and hard to get ahold of.

     
    MORE “BUTTER IS BETTER”

  • Check out the different types of butter in our Butter Glossary.
  • European-Style Butter, an even richer version.
  • Butter Conversion: How to substitute salted butter for a recipe that calls for unsalted.
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    *After each milking, the cream is set aside and natural, lactic bacteria ripens it into cultured cream, a.k.a. crème fraîche.

     

      

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    FOOD FUN: Blooming Marshmallows For Your Hot Chocolate

    First there was blooming tea: a specially tied bundle of tea leaves and flower petals that opens into a flower when placed in hot water.

    Now, there’s the blooming marshmallow, from innovative pastry chef Dominique Ansel.

    Blossoming Hot Chocolate—more accurately, blossoming marshmallow—is a thin marshmallow, cut like a flower, and bunched up to resemble a closed flower bud. Some dabs of white chocolate keep the bud closed.

    When placed in a cup of hot chocolate, the chocolate melts and the bud expands into the flower.

    Check out the videos from Ansel, then the fan recipes (we like the poinsettia the best), in the videos below.

    Make plain versions (all white or tinted pink marshmallow) before you try more elaborate colorations.

    TIP: Ansel added a small chocolate truffle to the center of the flower. The flower itself is anchored in chocolate. We think that’s a lot of chocolate!

    Instead, we’d use a small pecan cookie ball (a pecan sandy), a ball of cookie dough, a piece of caramel hand-rolled into a ball, or a small hard candy ball (as in the photo at right).

     

    Blooming Marshmallows

    Drop the “bud” into hot chocolate and watch the “flower” open (photo courtesy Dominique Ansel).

     

    WATCH THE MARSHMALLOW “BLOOM”

    THE RECIPE

    PIPE BEAUTIFUL SNOWFLAKE MARSHMALLOWS

      

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    HOLIDAY: Egg Nog Recipes For National Egg Nog Day

    National Egg Nog Day is December 24th. But you can enjoy the rich holiday beverage from Thanksgiving through New Year’s.

    While the origins of egg nog are debated, it may have originated from posset, a medieval European beverage made with hot milk and white wine. Americans adapted it but used the New World liquor rum, and later, bourbon (which evolved to its present form in the late 19th century). Cider was also used.

    George Washington was quite a fan of egg nog and devised his own recipe that included rye whiskey, rum and sherry.

    We know that there are eggs in egg nog, but what’s the “nog?” Opinions differ, but it’s an American name.

  • In Colonial America, rum was commonly called “grog,” and the descriptive term for the drink, “egg-and-grog,” may have corrupted to egg‘n’grog and then to egg nog.
  • Other experts insist that the “nog” is short for “noggin,” a small, carved wooden mug used to serve drinks in taverns.
  • It could even be a combination of the two: that an “egg and grog in a noggin” was shortened to egg nog. After having one or two, it’s easy to see why.
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    In the 1800s, egg nog was nearly always made in large quantities and nearly always a party drink. It was noted by an English visitor in 1866, that “Christmas is not properly observed unless you brew egg nog for all comers; everybody calls on everybody else; and each call is celebrated by a solemn egg-nogging…It is made cold and is drunk cold and is to be commended.”

    Here’s more on the history of egg nog.
     
    EGGNOG RECIPES

  • Chocolate Egg Nog Recipe
  • Classic Egg Nog Recipe
  • Coconut Egg Nog
  • Eggnog Martini Recipe
  • Eggnog White Russian Recipe
  • Flaming Egg Nog Recipe
  • Low Calorie Egg Nog Recipes
  •    

    Classic Eggnog

    Chocolate Eggnog

    [1] Classic eggnog (photo courtesy Liquor.com). [2] Chocolate eggnog (photo courtesy Pitch.com).

     

    Eggnog Gingerbread Cheesecakes

    Gingerbread-eggnog mini cheesecakes (photo courtesy Driscoll’s).

      HOLIDAY RECIPES MADE WITH EGGNOG

  • Egg Nog Crumble Bars Recipe
  • Egg Nog Mini Bundt Cakes Recipe
  • Eggnog French Toast Recipe
  • Eggnog Gingerbread Mini Cheesecakes Recipe
  • Eggnog Ice Cream Recipe
  • Eggnog Panettone Ice Cream Cake Recipe
  • Eggnog Panna Cotta Recipe
  • Eggnog Streusel Bars Recipe
  • Eggnog Truffles Recipe
  • Eggnog Whipped Cream Recipe
  • Eggnog Wreath Cookies Recipe
  • White Chocolate Eggnog Fudge Recipe
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Baked Hot Chocolate

    Baked Hot Chocolate

    Baked Hot Chocolate With Marshmallows

    Fancy Baked Hot Chocolate

    [1] Baked hot chocolate: a new texture experience (photo by F. Martin Ramin courtesy Wall Street Journal). [2] Prefer marshmallows? Pile them on (photo courtesy Framed Cooks). [3] You can use the same recipe for an elegant dessert like this (photo courtesy Fabulous Foods).

     

    What’s baked hot chocolate?

    Substitute butter and eggs for the milk, and stick it in the oven.

    O.K., it’s not really baked hot chocolate, but the name is fine. It’s not a brownie or cake, since it has no flour. The result is a mash-up of a brownie, a baked pudding and a chocolate soufflé. It’s cousin to a lava cake.

    The top layer is slightly crisp; the middle is pudding-like (similar to lava cake), and, at the bottom, you may find some hot chocolate. When served in a cup, the top covered with whipped cream or marshmallows, it is trompe l’oeil food fun.

    The recipe is said to have originated with Heidi Friedlander (now Robb), a pastry chef who first served it more than a decade ago at Moxie, a Cleveland bistro, where it is still the favorite dessert.

    The recipe ended up in The Essence of Chocolate cookbook by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg, founders of the Scharffenberger chocolate company (now part of Hershey). We adapted this recipe from theirs.

    Our favorite garnish is lightly-sweetened whipped cream with a teaspoon of orange liqueur (e.g. Grand Marnier), bourbon or rum. Since there’s currently a Reddi-Wip shortage, you can use the opportunity to make your own whipped cream. It’s fun, and it tastes glorious.

    Our article on how to make whipped cream also has recipes for salted caramel, lavender and five spice whipped cream.
     
    RECIPE: BAKED HOT CHOCOLATE

    These treats-in-a-cup can be served warm or at room temperature, topped with whipped cream.

    These can be made a day in advance and refrigerated, ungarnished. To reheat, first bring to room temperature; then place in a 350°F oven until warm, about 5 minutes.

    Total prep/cook time is 40 minutes.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 9 ounces quality* bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (you can also use chips or chunks)
  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon cayenne or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon; for Mexican hot chocolate, combine them
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Garnish: whipped cream, lightly sweetened
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    ________________
    *The finer the chocolate, the finer the flavor of the finished dish. You can chop up good chocolate bars.
     
    ALTERNATE GARNISHES

  • Crème fraîche, a sophisticated counterpoint
  • Crushed candy cane or striped peppermints
  • Ice cream
  • Mini marshmallows or marshmallow cream
  • Whipped cream (very lightly sweetened)
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    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Place four eight-ounce ovenproof tea cups/coffee cups in a baking pan. If you don’t have ovenproof cups you can substitute ramekins or custard cups, but you lose the trompe l’oeil effect.

    2. MELT the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler. The water in the bottom should be barely simmering; the underside of the top section should not touch the water. As it slowly melts, whisk or stir the chocolate occasionally. When fully melted, remove the top section of the double boiler and place the lid on the bottom section, to keep the water simmering. Stir the optional spices into the melted and set aside.

    3. PLACE the eggs and sugar in a heatproof mixing bowl; then set bowl over the simmering water. Stir until warm to the touch (about 1 minute); then turn off the heat and remove the bowl to the counter.

    4. BEAT the egg mixture with an electric beater at high speed, until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Gently fold the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula.

    5. SPOON the batter into the cups. Add very hot water to baking pan, to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake until the tops lose their glossy finish and begin to look crusty: 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the cups from the pan and onto saucers. Top with whipped cream and serve immediately; or set aside and garnish when ready to serve. Serve with a spoon!

    For a marshmallow garnish: Sprinkle the marshmallows on top and return the cups to oven for 2 to 4 minutes, until the marshmallows or marshmallow cream begin to crisp. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. You can sprinkle them with a bit of cinnamon, cocoa, nutmeg or other favorite.

     
      

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