Stuffed Mushrooms with Italian Sausage, Sherry and Parmesan Cheese

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First, a little “Housekeeping” regarding mushrooms:

How to purchase a brown ( Cremini ) or white ( Button) shaped mushroom.
If you know me, you know I love to forge in the wild for mushrooms. Shopping for mushrooms in a large chain grocery store can be like hunting. By the time a mushroom is picked, boxed transported and stored on display– they are not so fresh. If you don’t have the luxury to know a mushroom vendor; here are a few hints on how to ensure you are choosing the freshest mushroom from your local grocery store chain.

When hunting for your fungi in the grocery store – never purchase a package. Find the loose box and for this recipe – consistently choose two-inch sized mushroom caps. While they look bigger than bite size, mushrooms are full of liquid and they dramatically evaporate when baked, resulting in a decrease in size.

Choose mushrooms that have closed gills. Look in the area where the stem and the cap- meet. Turn the mushroom over and look under the cap. If the gills are exposed, it’s a sign the mushroom is not fresh.

Choose mushrooms without brown spots, or dents and ones that are firm–not shriveled or wrinkled. Avoid any mushrooms coated with a notable slime feel.

I like to choose the one with the least amount of soil.Mushrooms are very porous. Chefs usually don’t wash them in liquid. Brushing mushrooms is the best method. Less soil means less work!

How to Clean a Mushroom 
To clean mushrooms, wipe them gently with a damp paper towel. I reserve a very soft-bristled babies hair brush; just for this application. If they are really dirty give them a very quick rinse and a fast dry. We want the mushrooms flesh to be filled with flavor, not water.

The Recipe:

Ingredients: 
24- 2 inch cremini, or white button mushrooms, cleaned thoroughly.
3 cloves of fresh garlic, cleaned
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
2 shallots, cleaned
1/2 cup walnuts ( optional )
3 Tablespoons good quality olive oil
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons good quality sherry ( optional )
3/4 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage, or–removed from the casings
1 red bell pepper cut into small confetti ( cut thin matchsticks, then into very small dice pieces- chefs call this cut: “Brunoise” bro͞onˈwäz – typically 1/8 x 1/8 inch )
2/3 cup panko crumbs
5 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375’F Degrees. Remove the stems from the caps and place the stems inside the bowl of your food processor. Add garlic, parsley, shallots, walnuts and a pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Pulse process until everything is the size just under a small pea shape. Set aside.

 
Slice a very small, and very thin slice of the rounded edge of the mushrooms that wobble and wont stand up straight. Add the pieces to the mixture. You will want assurance they mushroom caps will sit flat and not tip over once it is filled, baking or when you serve them. Place the prepared mushroom caps in a bowl and toss with 3 Tablespoons of the olive oil, and a good dusting with salt and pepper. Remove the mushroom caps from the bowl, and place the rounded side down on a high-sided baking sheet lined with a silicon baking mat, or parchment paper. Set aside. Keep bowl available for future use.

 
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the mushroom and herb mixture from the food processor. Sauté until the mushrooms are soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add the sausage. Stir to crumble and cook stirring to incorporate the mushroom mixture evenly throughout.

 

When sausage is cooked- about 8-10 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sherry. Return to heat and cook an additional 1 minute. Place the cooked sausage mixture into the bowl you tossed the mushrooms in the oil earlier. Set aside to cool.

 

Once the mixture has cooled, add the creamed cheese, parmesan cheese, panko and the red bell pepper confetti. Add about 7-8  twists of fresh ground pepper. Taste. Adjust seasoning with salt if necessary. Mix to throughly to combine. Refrigerate for a minimum 30 minutes covered air tight.

 
Fill each mushroom generously by using a 1/2 ounce portion scoop or a heaping tablespoon. Mound high. Bake for 45- 50 minutes until golden brown. Dust with a sprinkling of grated parmesan the last 2 minutes of baking.

 

Remove and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley before serving.

 
Note: Mushrooms can be stuffed ahead a few hours, covered and refrigerated until guests arrive, then bake and serve.

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