• The Hungry Sloth

Zucchini stuffed mushrooms

As far as it goes to mushrooms, I walk a fine line where I do like them and then I just don't. There are dishes that these fungi are a must and copliment the result, adding a lot to fragrance, texture, color and taste. There is no denial in that statement. But from personal point of view I literally can't have them if they are poorly treated and I've tasted a lot of those bad treatments during my years of cooking maturity (Wait, what maturity???) I can explain.

To begin with, mushrooms have a unique ability that it's rarely seen in another ingredient and if not used correctly I hate them. They can absorb the liquids from where they've been cooked, up to a certain point of course. So if the cook is not totally aware of that, or they just miscalculated the time in which the ingredient keeps the liquids inside them, then it's just a meaningless piece of sponge in your plate. Second thing I despise is when the cook doesn't know how to use this fine material to their advantage. I mean, if they can store a certain portion of taste inside them, use it to make clever combinations. Let's say you want to make roasted mustard chicken with tarragon. Really why make it single pot, while you can add mushrooms in a different pan, saute them for a small portion of time, add some fine wine and tarragon so they absorb this magic perfectness and retract them, only to add them 15 minutes before the chicken is ready? You will see your guest eating the chicken along with the mushrooms as if they are now on equal terms as the chicken. Nuke your visitors with umami from different angles. Leave them exposed to your technique, begging for some more. They will even confess crimes and sins to you, if you master your Fungus-Cooking-Prana and you will be able to blackmail them for eternity. Think about it.

By why talk so much and not directly jump to a beloved recipe of mine? Today's special is an appetizer / side dish that combines white button mushrooms (champignon if you are Papa Smurf) and a light-ish zucchini based stuffing.

First of, I boil 5-6 medium sized zucchinis (you 've got to peel them prior to boiling, yes?) with nothing but water. While the fake cuccumbers are getting their a$$es boiled, I peel the bulby part of the mushrooms (cap) and keep their stipes (body), which later get cut into small pieces. When I am done with the mushrooms, I cut the garlic cloves in small pieces as well, and then head to bacon and salami to cut them into triangles. You can always make a "cold-cut free" recipe by not adding salami and bacon (a.k.a. vegetarian).

Zucchinis are ready about 15 minutes of boiling (maybe more ...? less?). Let them cool a bit in a plate. When the ingredients can be touched without burning your hands, grate them at the side for the large chunks.

It's important that after grating the zucchinis, to drain them from the majority of water they already contain. So we are all set now, let's start making the stuffing. A deep pan is ok, but if you lack one, a pot is totally fine. I start by adding oil to the pan and at the same time the pieces of garlic. When I get the gracious garlic aroma (close to a minute), I add the grated zucchinis and let them for 5 minutes while stirring, so any excess liquids vaporize. If there are low to no signs of moisture, then it's high time to add the chopped stipes. Another 5 minutes should be ok. I usually add salt and white pepper at this point for the sole reason that the salt will help the mixture dry a bit more and pepper, if it comes in touch with heat, it will be forced to strengthen its aromas up. Finally, I raise the heat to high, add the cream, leave it to take its first boil and then lower it again to medium - low. What we need here is to let the stuffing have the right amount of cream. More will be sauce, less will be dry when eating it. Seven to eight minutes will suffice for that but it strongly depends of the heat.

When it's done, let it aside to cool. Let's play with mushrooms now, but first we need to make the oil mixture where we'll spread over the caps. In a bowl, add olive oil with lots of thyme and garllic powder. Give them a nice stir and put it aside. Put your oven on 180 degrees (some Fahrenheit) without air to preheat.

In a baking pan with the right size of baking sheet, line the caps with decent spacing between them, as if they are social distancing from each other due to Smurf virus. Pick up a brush, and anoint them with the olive oil mixture. When finished, turn them upside down. Now you must be seeing them as cups ready to be filled. Do the same with the brush and oil.

The key here is to see that the mushrooms already do their part by absorbing the oil mixture inside them and from shinny cute caps slowly become boring matte pieces of fungus. Don't let that demoralize you though. This will pay off later!

Stuffing time! With a teaspoon, add a NORMAL amount of stuffing and fill the empty cap. Really, don't be like me to fill more than the actual amount they could handle. If by any chance you have some grated cheese (parmesan, gruyere) you can first put a tiny bit so the stuffing can lay on it and gets some more flavor than it already has.

While doing this you can go to your safe place, do imaginary conversations where you are always right or contemplate life in general, as this is the most boring part of the recipe especially if you have a lot of mushrooms to stuff. I would pay anyone to do this part, but then I remembered I'm poor for things like that.

When, for the love of God, this painful part is over, then stick the pieces of bacon and salami in the stuffing. Stick them in a way that when they heat up and their juices flow, gravity will lead those juices inside the stuffing and not on the pan. More flavor = more cool person.

Take the pan into the oven and let it for 25 minutes. You can always check their color if they need a bit more, but 25' is really ok.

Ingredients for 20 champignon

  • 20 Champignon mushrooms (I know it's written just above, get out!)

  • 5-6 medium zucchini

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 8 tbsp olive oil (2 tbsp to saute, 6 tbsp to brush the caps)

  • 130 ml heavy cream

  • 2 tsp garlic powder

  • 2 tbsp dried thyme

  • 3 pinches of salt

  • 1 tsp white pepper

  • 2 slices of bacon

  • 4 slices of salami

  • Optional: 50 gr Grated parmesan / gruyere (we all know it's not optional, ok?)



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