Tastes of the Med: Grilled Mushrooms Stuffed with Italian Sausage

IMG_8041

Stuffed mushrooms are one of the first recipes I remember making with my mother, who was always willing to try out different things. Thirty years ago in the United States, mushrooms weren’t all that popular and not at all available in the variety they are today. I helped my mother to make the stuffing out of Italian sausage, together with parmigiano, bread crumbs and white wine, just before they were baked in a medium oven. Arranged on a platter, out the door they went to a friend’s dinner party. I was impressed by the simple elegance and the punch of flavor these then-delicacies offered up. I made them again and again over the years.

This all came to a screeching halt once we got to Cyprus. Cultivated mushrooms were simply not available. My go-to choice for cocktail parties was gone. Here in Europe, there is a vigorous seasonal activity where everyone seems to be a mycophagist, or mushroom hunter. There is a bit of danger to this, as poisonous mushrooms are plentiful in and among the good ones. But collecting wild mushrooms in the spring or fall when they’re in abundance is something that, once you’ve done it, stays with you forever. The process of foraging for your own food and bringing it home to cook and enjoy brings out the hunter/gatherer in us all. Unfortunately, the incredibly flavorful, saffron-yellow wild mushrooms available in Cyprus, similar in shape to a shitake and to a portobello in texture, are unsuitable for filling.

When cultivated mushrooms started appearing in the past few years, I took to resuming the practice of turning the agaricus bisporus into the ideal cocktail food, minus the Italian sausage, as they weren’t available. They became a vegetarian variety and I filled them with a variety of different locally-produced cheeses: kefalotyri; feta; graviera. Delicious as they were, I was always underwhelmed by the watery texture of the mushroom that held the stuffing within. After all, they’re 92% water. Choosing the cooking method is integral to enjoying their ideal texture: slightly cooked, warm interiors with a chewy exterior. Baking them in a conventional oven doesn’t allow for proper air circulation underneath. Oftentimes, they take so long to cook, though still utterly delicious, the finished product is not that visually pleasing. Placed under an infra-red broiler, they tend to cook better, searing the tops without overcooking the mushroom below. Grilling mushrooms is even trickier. Due to the dry, high heat (even at the lowest setting on your gas grill), they tend to dehydrate quickly and become rubbery. This is corrected by the introduction of a generous amount of lemon juice squeezed over them once they are off the grill. A beautiful taste which unintentionally dulls their woody flavor considerably.

Wood-grilled mushrooms, as with the other foods you have read about in the feature category “Grilling” using the myGrill™ Chef SMART™ Grill, absorb the aromatic flavors of the wood charcoal. Gas-grillers take note: this is because of a compound called guaiacol which is produced when the heat breaks down lignin, the main culprit that basically holds wood together. This aroma perfumes all the food that is cooked on it, period. Whole mushrooms dehydrate less. Stuffed mushrooms hold the moisture within, resulting in a totally different flavor altogether: moist and cooked throughout, with a pleasant taste that makes the woody flavor of the mushroom develop a bacon-y flavor.

Now that we are making our own sausage with the recent purchase of a sausage attachment for the food procesor, we have plenty of filling to use on pizza and in mushrooms. If you don’t make your own sausage, purchase sausage filling (what goes into the sausage casing) from your butcher, deli or sausage maker. If you can only avail yourself of the prepared variety, all you have to do is remove it from the casing before making this recipe. Deliciousness guaranteed.

Grilled Mushrooms Stuffed with Italian Sausage

serves 8-12

In a large skillet, fry until translucent:

1 large onion
2 cloves garlic

Add:
200 gr/7 oz fresh sausage filling

Fry until the sausage has developed some color. De-glaze the pan with:
4 T good white wine

Allow the wine to evaporate and remove from the heat. Allow to cool.

In a separate bowl, combine:
4 T parmigiano, grated
4 T. mozzarella, grated
1 sprig of rosemary, woody stem removed then roughly chopped
2 T. parsley, chopped
2 Italian crispbreads, crushed
reserved sausage mixture

On a platter, place:

12 mushrooms, stems removed

Rub each with a dry cloth, if there is any any organic matter to remove. Do not rinse with water. Divide the filling evenly between the mushrooms.

Prepare your myGrill™ Chef SMART™ grill. Spread the heated wood charcoal in a thin layer over the heating tiles and fit the stainless steel racks to the grill. Slide the racks over the prepared wood coals. Place the mushrooms on the stainless steel grates. Cook until the skin of the mushrooms wrinkle and the stuffing is golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Serve on a platter with wedges of lemon and a sprinkling of chopped parsley for color.

IMG_8030

Tips for success:
•Any cap mushroom works great for this recipe: white, portobello, crimini
•Good-quality sausage is lean, so there in no need to drain the fat. If there is excessive fat, drain the sausage once cooked and then proceed with the recipe.
•Avoid overstuffing the mushrooms. The stuffing should be contained within the mushroom, without falling out. The mushrooms will contract when cooked, due to the loss of their high-moisture content, causing the filling to fall out.

Tips for using the myGrill Chef SMART™ Grill:
•As the grates are used, there is no need to use the computer-assisted feature. Make sure to use best-quality charcoal and spread the heated coals out in a thin layer over the heating tiles. Resist adding more coals, as the heating tiles assist with maintaining the heat of the coals. Using too much wood charcoal will result in an overcooked exterior and an underdone interior.