Usually, it's eaten too quickly. On Halloween, I made these mushrooms after returning home from two soccer games, one football game, and pumpkin hunting (never again will I wait until Halloween day to get our carving pumpkin). When the 'rooms were done, I tented them with foil in a pretty white platter I got from my old friend Jen for my wedding, then took on the monumental task of making my tired self look presentable for the evening. A new ruffled-edge dressy t-shirt always helps.
During this time, the camera was charging to take pictures of Halloween 2009.
I was just too focused on performing miracles - impromptu costumes, never before tried recipes, carving a pumpkin just before sundown - to think about culinary photography for my blog.
I pulled the food off, at least. In addition to the stuffed mushrooms, I also wrapped some thin, medium-rare filet mignon slices up in store bought crescent rolls, baked them until golden brown, then topped them with a sour cream-dill-horseradish sauce. That beef and bread creation didn't go as fast as the mushrooms during the partying. The recipe is below.
My girlfriend hosting Halloween didn't ask anyone to bring anything, but, I just couldn't go along with that. I, by nature, had to make the evening more difficult for myself. Half to blame is my mother's "Never go to someone's house empty-handed" and the other half of culpability belongs to my "Cook until you reinvent yourself a thousand times" approach to being social. I am well aware of my quirks and worries, but at the root of it all - any holiday, party of festivity - is to enjoy oneself, to remember it with fondness, so I cook. I don't have to. But I have to.
And maybe I want my kids to know they can count on me to make something delicious and well-representing in a pinch. It feels like our entire life is "in a pinch", but I seem to operate this way, and I am still standing. Leaning to one side, maybe, but standing.
The truth is, these mushrooms were not planned out. They were successful, savory, and sublimely sweet and meaty, but spontaneous. In a pinch. A lot of things, in a pinch.
I got to the grocery store at 4:30pm on Halloween day, which was only crazier because it was a Saturday. By this time, I had been to four places to get pumpkins. I looked exactly like someone who had schlepped kids to games in 83 degree weather all day; hair flying out of it's clip in all directions, absent of lip color, shiny face with beads of sweat on my cheeks. But I had a purpose, this was apparent. At least I like to think it was.
"I guess you guys are out of pumpkins, too?" I asked the grocery store employee working produce, trying not to sound like Wendy Whiner from SNL years ago. "I got one left, it has some abrasions, so I'll just give it to you free," he said. He went behind the swingy produce doors, and returned with a pumpkin that didn't look so bad to me. It had N/C written on it next to a soft, pigmented area on the pumpkin. "Thank you," I said to the clerk, making sure I looked him in the eye. I smiled at him - I appreciated the fact that this person was generous, even though he probably wanted to be home spilling KitKats into a big pumpkin-shaped bowl with his own kids, getting them ready for a fun night.
I could so make this pumpkin work. I felt like taking a nap right there in the potato aisle but optimism, optimism will save you, my horoscope had said earlier in the week.
I walked by the mushrooms that were on special. I stopped in front of their display to think, and the inertia of my following daughters knocked me into my shopping cart. "Did your father finish that sweet potato I made him in between games?" I got a quick, definitive "No," so I chose carefully 20 big mushrooms, bought a beef chorizo, and grabbed some crumbled feta before leaving the store.
Once home, I cleared counter space, set out my ingredients, and pre-heated the oven to 425 degrees.
Follow these instructions, but not necessarily how I arrived at them, and I promise you a delicious hors d'oeuvre, that hopefully makes your kin proud.
CHORIZO AND SWEET POTATO STUFFED MUSHROOMS WITH FETA
20 large mushrooms (any mushrooms that looks big enough to hold stuffing after you pop out the stem)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 pkg. beef chorizo sausage (I buy the kind that looks like Kielbasa)
1 large sweet potato, cooked
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
8 oz. softened cream cheese
chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/8 tsp. coarse grain salt
pepper to taste
crumbled feta cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Grease a cookie sheet lined with foil, or a 9x13 pan.
Dust off mushrooms with a pastry brush or paper towel. Pop out and discard the stems.
With a pastry brush, brush the mushrooms with olive oil, placing mushrooms onto cookie sheet or into 9x13 pan.
Squeeze chorizo out of it's casing into a skillet, and cook over medium heat until done, about 5-7 minutes ("done" meaning malleable, warmed through, needing to be drained of fat).
Use a slotted spoon to remove the chorizo from pan, or strain the chorizo.
In a large bowl, add chorizo, cooked sweet potato, bread crumbs, softened cream cheese, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.
Mix well, until all ingredients are incorporated.
Scoop into mushrooms. It's okay if the filling gets high!
Top with crumbled feta, as much as you like.
Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes (check after 15 minutes), until you can smell the mushrooms and the feta is melted, beginning to bubble and brown.