gyro-stuffed mushrooms or mini-footballs, you decide

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I don’t much care for stuffed mushrooms, since they always seem too bland and soggy. There are a couple of exceptions. One is grilled spicy tuna-stuffed mushrooms that they make at certain sushi/teppanyaki restaurants. The other is this recipe, which I invented because I like me some gyros. If you like you some gyros, too, try these stuffed mushrooms: they are filled with herbed lamb and pine nuts, then topped with creamy cucumber-garlic dollops. They also kinda look like little footballs, so you can serve them for the game with your vegetable tray.

Mini-Footballs with Creamy Garlic Sauce

or

Deconstructed Gyro-Stuffed Mushrooms with Dollops of Tzatziki

Serves: 8-10 as an appetizer

Martha Stewart’s book on appetizers provided the technique for pre-cooking the mushroom vessels. Removing as much liquid as possible is crucial, and this method makes for dripless mushrooms.

24 large white mushrooms
olive oil
1 piece pita bread
1/4 cup milk
5-6 cloves garlic
1 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt (if you use the American kind, you’ll need to drain it overnight because it must be thick like sour cream)
1/3 cup grated fresh cucumber (peel and remove seeds first)
1 lb. ground lamb (don’t use hamburger, you need the flavor)
2 shallots or a few tablespoons of red onion
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
juice from 1/2 lemon
fresh oregano
fresh mint
fresh parsley
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Tear pita bread into pieces and soak in a small bowl with milk to cover.

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For Dollops of Tzatziki: grate cucumber using a box grater. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible, place in small bowl, then salt with about 1/2 t. salt and let sit to remove more water. After 15 minutes or so, squeeze again and blot with paper towels. Mix together salted cucumber bits, yogurt, a few tablespoons of chopped mint, and a large clove of garlic, pressed in a press. Refrigerate until immediately prior to serving.

Scoop out stems from mushrooms with a small spoon make pretty vessels. Chop mushroom stems and set aside in bowl. Rub baking sheet and mushrooms with olive oil (you could use a brush, but I just use my hands). Bake, cap-side up, for 7-10 minutes. (But I messed up and did cap-side down, to no great harm). Mushrooms will turn golden and will exude liquid when they are ready.

While you are baking the mushroom caps, brown ground lamb in olive oil on medium high heat. Add chopped mushroom stems, 4-5 cloves chopped garlic and a couple of chopped shallots after cooking meat for a few minutes. When nice and brown, remove from heat and add salt and pepper.

In a large food processor, pulse the soaked bread and the meat mixture to combine. Don’t turn it into a paste; you just want it smushed together so it will hold. Return to saute pan and add a handful of chopped parsley, a few tablespoons of chopped oregano, lemon juice, and pine nuts.

Remove mushrooms from baking sheet, drain and blot dry as much as possible with paper towels. Return to baking sheet for stuffing.

Preheat oven to broil on high.

Stuff mushroom caps and broil close to the heat source for a few minutes, or until browned and crusty on top. Watch carefully, since they can burn easily.

Serve on a white platter with dollops of tzatziki sauce on top. These hold well, since you’ve been diligent about liquid removal, so it’s ok to let them sit, but add chilled tzatziki only immediately prior to serving. If you’re fancy, garnish each mushroom with an oregano leaf.

I’d imagine this would also be good stuffed in tomatoes or peppers.

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