There’s a Twitter account that I follow called Boring Tweeter, whose profile picture is a beige square and who tweets comments like:
“Goodnight. I hope I have that dream about cardboard again. It was good.”
“I’m sitting on a chair.”
Boring Tweeter’s profile picture might as well be a button mushroom. In the wild world of fungi, the button mushroom is…boring. It pales before the mighty, meaty porcino; it lacks the chewy appeal of the shiitake or the golden hue and fine ruffled trumpet shape of the chanterelle. It is beige, watery, bland.
And yet. As boring as Boring Tweeter’s tweets are, they somehow always make me laugh. There is something almost poetic about them. It’s the same with button mushrooms. They always deliver more than what I expect, whether it’s in the form of carpaccio or these stuffed caps.
This is a classic recipe, with a filling of fresh breadcrumbs seasoned with garlic, cheese, and parsley. There are any number of variations; see below for a few suggestions. As for the mushrooms, you can use white button mushrooms, cremini, or portobellos; they are all part of the same family of cultivated mushrooms. Look for large, unblemished ones, about 3 inches in diameter, with stems still attached ~ the stems become part of the filling and the firm saucer-like caps make great vessels for the sharp, savory filling.
Hardly boring. In fact, call them by their Italian-French name, funghi champignon, and maybe they’re even a little poetic.
Stuffed mushrooms may be a classic party appetizer, but I like to serve them as a side to roasted salmon or chicken, or even as a vegetarian main dish for brunch or dinner. Look for blemish-free mushrooms that are firm, with no soft spots. Use white button mushrooms, brown cremini, or portobellos; they are all part of the same family and their squat round shape makes them perfect vessels for stuffing. This recipe calls for large (3-inch diameter) mushrooms, but for a party appetizer feel free to use smaller bite-size ones.
- 12 large button mushrooms, about 3 inches in diameter
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 4 to 6 ounces fresh breadcrumbs (see NOTE)
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons white wine, plus more for the baking dish
- Optional additions:
- 1 tablespoon chopped capers
- 1 or 2 minced anchovy fillets
- 1 to 2 tablespoons minced giardiniera
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped roasted peppers
- 2 tablespoons chopped olives
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoons crumbled ricotta salata or feta cheese
- 1 lightly beaten egg (as a binder)
Gently wash and dry the mushrooms to remove any dirt. Separate the caps from the stems. Trim the ends off the stems and finely chop the stems.
Heat the oven to 375 F.
In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and the garlic over medium heat. Press down on the garlic to release its fragrance. Remove the garlic as soon as it starts to color. Add the chopped stems to the skillet and cook, stirring, until they have begun to soften, about 5 minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper, cook for another minute or two, then remove from the heat.
Combine the breadcrumbs (using more or less depending on how big your mushroom caps are), 2 tablespoons Parmigiano, 2 tablespoons Pecorino, and the parsley in a bowl. Drizzle in the broth, wine, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the sauteed stems and mix everything together. At this point you can mix in any of the optional additions ~ no more than one or two. If the filling is too loose, add another drizzle of oil. Or, for a slightly heavier filling, fold in a lightly beaten egg to bind it. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt or pepper, if needed. Fill the mushroom caps with the stuffing (you may not use all of it).
Coat the bottom of a baking dish with a drizzle of oil and a splash of wine, and arrange the stuffed caps in the dish. If you have extra filling, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of it over the mushrooms. Sprinkle a little of the remaining tablespoon of Parmigiano and Pecorino on top of each mushroom, and drizzle a little olive oil over them.
Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and the tops are golden-brown and crispy. Serve hot.
To make fresh breadcrumbs, remove the crusts from a chunk of good artisan bread. Break the bread into large pieces and put them in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until the bread pieces have broken down into crumbs.