We recently had these gems as part of our New Year’s Eve dinner. Any festive occasion such as anniversary, graduation, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or you just feel a little decadent one day, they are an easy, healthy and festive main or first course for any special celebration.
Try to pick four equally-sized large portobello mushrooms. Check the gills to see if they’re fresh by looking for a paper-thin layer of white cap. The perfect mushrooms will be damp and springy but not overly moist, mushy, or dried out.
Break the stems off of the portobello mushrooms and scrape the gills out of them with a spoon. Wipe the caps with a damp paper towel, and then lay them gilled side up in the dish before setting them aside.
Once prepped and filled, bake the mushrooms until they are soft, the filling is heated through, and the topping is browned, which should take around 30 to 32 minutes. Let the mushrooms cool for 5 to 10 minutes, and then top them with additional scallions before serving (if desired).
Unbelievably delicious, we paired ours with Baked Scallops with Couscous and Leeks for a romantic New Year’s Eve dinner at home. We will be making them again as an hors d’oeuvre for an upcoming dinner party, but will use smaller cremini mushrooms. However, be prepared for sticker-shock over the price of lump crab meat… but special occasions call for treating yourself, right?
A few weeks later we made the appetizer size for the house party. Using the same amount of ingredients for the stuffing, it filled about 30 button mushrooms and took approximately 25 minutes to cook.
4 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
1 1/2 tsp. seafood seasoning blend such as Old Bay
¼ tsp. salt, optional
Freshly ground pepper to taste
5 to 10 dashes of Tabasco hot sauce
1 egg white
2 scallions, finely sliced, plus more for garnish
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs, plus 3 Tbsp., divided (gluten-free if desired)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 1 Tbsp., divided
2 Tbsp. finely chopped jarred and drained roasted red pepper or pimento
8 oz. lump or jumbo crab meat
1 Tbsp. melted salted butter
1/8 tsp. paprika
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 13 baking dish with cooking spray. Break stems off portobello mushrooms. Scrape gills out of them with a spoon. Wipe caps with a damp paper towel. Lay gilled side up in the dish. Set aside.
Beat cream cheese, Old Bay, salt and Tabasco with an electric mixer on medium-low until creamy and the seasonings are fully incorporated into the cream cheese. Add egg white and beat again to combine.
Add scallions, ½ cup breadcrumbs, ½ Parmesan and red pepper and mix on low until combined.
Stir crab, gently by hand into the cream cheese mixture until just incorporated.
Scoop the filling into the mushrooms, dividing evenly.
Stir the remaining 3 tablespoons panko with butter and paprika until the breadcrumbs are evenly moistened and reddish orange. Sprinkle over the mushrooms. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan.
Bake the mushrooms until they are soft, the filling is heated through and the topping is browned, 30 to 32 minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes. Top with additional scallions before serving, if desired.
Milk Street got the idea for this pasta dish from “Pasta Grannies” by Vicky Bennison. The unusual sauce is made by blitzing artichokes in a blender. Canned artichokes are used instead of fresh for ease, but first they are browned in a mixture of olive oil and rendered in pancetta fat to build flavor in the sauce. The crisp bits of pancetta lend texture and saltiness, lemon adds brightness and balance, and a generous amount of Parmesan ties all the elements together. Voila!
With a minimum of ingredients, this lovely pasta dish can be served as a first course or as the main entrée. Instead of canned, we used frozen artichokes—just make sure to really dry those chokes, otherwise they won’t brown. Using a wider pan would accelerate the browning process. In fact, you may want more of them for the topping!
Don’t use marinated artichokes for this recipe, as their flavor is too sharp and tangy. After draining the artichokes, make sure to pat them dry so they caramelize when added to the pot. Don’t forget to reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water before draining the noodles. You will need it for pureeing the artichokes and building the sauce. And we used every drop of those 2 cups, so perhaps save a bit more…
One other note. Instead of letting the cooked pasta sit in a colander while you make the rest of the dish, use two pots. As the linguine boils, cook the pancetta and then the artichokes in another. This way, everything comes together at one time and is guaranteed to be piping hot.
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
4 oz. pancetta, chopped
14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained, patted dry and quartered if whole
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup), plus more to serve
½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley OR chives OR basil
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve about 2 cups of the cooking water, then drain.
In the same pot over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring, until crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a small plate; set aside.
Add the artichokes to the pot and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown at the edges, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Transfer half the artichokes to a small bowl; add the remainder to a blender. Reserve the pot.
To the artichokes in the blender, add ½ cup cooking water, the lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper; puree until smooth. In the same pot over medium, bring 1 cup of the remaining cooking water to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits.
Add the artichoke puree, the pasta, lemon zest, pancetta, Parmesan and parsley. Cook, tossing to combine, just until the noodles are heated through, 1 to 2 minutes; add more reserved water as needed to make a silky sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the reserved artichokes, along with additional oil and Parmesan.
The day before a small dinner party, we made this wonderful soup by Mikel López Iturriaga which combines carrots, apples, leeks and onions as the main stars. Our overall meal revolved around a veggie- and fruit-centric theme, despite the fact the main entrée was a herb-stuffed pork loin roast. So this soup fit into the rotation nicely as the first course.
With the addition of honey, we were a bit concerned the soup may be too sweet, but the alliums countered that sweetness and the mint and yogurt finish provided a cool refreshing note. The finished soup is silky smooth and creamy, yet there is no cream in it!
One of the best we’ve ever eaten, it is moving on up into that Top Ten range of best soups ever. Of course, anytime you make a recipe that calls for stock or broth, you’ll enhance the depth of flavor by using homemade, as opposed to the bland store-bought varieties.
1 1⁄2 lbs. carrots, peeled, chopped into 1⁄2-inch pieces
3 Golden Delicious apples, washed, cored and peeled
1 1⁄2 large leeks, trimmed and washed thoroughly, chopped into 1⁄2-inch pieces
1 1⁄2 yellow onions, peeled and chopped into 1⁄2-inch pieces
4 cups (1 qt.) chicken or vegetable broth, preferably homemade
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. butter
4 oz. apple liqueur
4 sprigs thyme, tied in a bundle
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves
1 pinch ground cumin
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Peel and chop the leek (white and light green parts only), the onion, and the carrot into half-inch pieces. Poach them covered in a large soup pot over medium-low heat with a pinch of salt and about 3 tablespoons olive oil for about 20 minutes or until the onion is tender. Do not brown the vegetables.
Add the broth and thyme bundle, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until carrots are very tender.
Meanwhile, core and peel the apples, then cut each into 8 segments. Place on a large plate and daub them with the honey.
Place the butter in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over a medium heat. When it is melted and hot, add the apple segments making sure that the broad side of each one makes contact with the bottom of the skillet. Caramelize them for about 5 minutes or until they achieve a dark golden color, then turn them and caramelize the other side, about another 5 minutes.
Once the apple pieces are tender and golden, add them to the soup pot. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the apple liqueur and stir to loosen the fond on the bottom of the skillet. Return the skillet to a medium-high heat and boil for about 2 minutes.
Add this sauce to the soup, cook the soup for a couple minutes more and then puree the mixture until it is velvety smooth and no pieces of the apple peel are visible. If the soup appears too thick, add some additional broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Allow the soup to rest for several hours. It’s best made the day before you plan to serve it.
When ready to serve, bring the soup gently to a simmer.
In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, cumin, mint, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve the hot soup with a tablespoon of the yogurt as garnish.
This Cream of Celery and Celery Root Soup is smooth and delicate, and its elegant celery leaf garnish makes it a perfect first course for a dinner party—which was our original plans. Adding celery root (a relative of celery) imbues the soup with even deeper celery flavor.
Found in our Fine Cooking Magazine, several reviewers mentioned they thought the soup was flat. Au contraire mon ami, we loved the silken flavor profile. Perhaps ours was more robust in that we used homemade chicken stock which amps up flavor tenfold as opposed to any bland store bought version. In addition, The Hubs tossed in a 1/2 teaspoon each of celery salt and white pepper.
Unfortunately the dinner party plans fell apart for a number of reasons, but that didn’t stop us from dividing the soup in half; one part destined for the freezer in the hopes those dinner plans would come together again soon, and the other for us to nosh on for lunch the next day.
UPDATE: We did use the “freezer” portion of the soup for that dinner party a few weeks later, and luckily it thawed just fine.
6 cups thinly sliced celery (reserve 1/4 cup celery leaves)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cups peeled, small-diced celery root
6 cups chicken broth
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 fresh or 1/2 dried bay leaf
2 Tbs. crème fraîche
Freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil for frying
In a 4-quart pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook until tender and just beginning to color, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the celery root and stir to coat with the butter. Pour in the chicken broth, and then add the thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes.
Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf and purée the soup in a blender until smooth. Pass the soup through a medium-fine sieve and transfer to a clean pot.
Bring the soup back up to a simmer, whisk in the crème fraîche (please don’t omit this important ingredient), and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep hot.
Heat 1/2 inch of canola oil in a 1-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the celery leaves and cook until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the celery leaves to a plate lined with paper towels.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the celery leaves.