Thursday, May 1, 2008

May 2: The Intermediate Pantry; Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms

I agree with Merseydoats that the basic pantry needs several different vinegars. I left those off of yesterday's list, so I'm tacking them on to The Intermediate Pantry, but I do think they're important staples. I also forgot colanders--infinitely important for everything from draining pasta to washing fruit. I have three--a fairly fine wire mesh colander, a large plastic one, and another metal one that serves as a basket in my stockpot. These are basics--find a shape and a configuration that works for you and how you cook.

This is the pantry for people who've expanded beyond the basics--people who entertain casually, people who want to eat well every day, people who are up for a challenge in the kitchen. This pantry supports more complicated techniques, more in-depth recipes, more homemade and less prepared foods, and it still respects the two-career household, the idea that a working mom may not take the time on a Tuesday night to make her own mayonnaise.

The recipe is one of my favorites--it is plenty fattening, terrifically decadent, and yet still easy enough to make on that Tuesday night. With some roasted broccoli, a side of tomato-sauced spaghetti, and a big green salad, it's a hugely satisfying meal with lots of protein and lots of fiber, both of which will keep you feeling full for a long time. For Kimberly's baby shower, I made sausage-stuffed mushrooms, just regular white mushrooms, and they were a hit. This is a meal-sized variation on the theme, with some spinach thrown in to draw attention away from all the cheese and pork.

The Pantry
Everything from The Basic Pantry, plus...

  • Dark brown sugar
  • Cake flour
  • Bread flour
  • Fleur de sel
  • Quick-cooking grits
  • Baking chocolate in Bittersweet and Unsweetened
  • No-bake lasagna noodles
  • Orzo
  • Brown rice
  • Red potatoes
  • Avocados
  • Red onions
  • Shallots
  • Tortilla chips
  • Walnut or grapeseed oil
  • White wine vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Balsalmic vinegar
  • Bananas

  • Dried spices: Chipotle and Ancho chile powder, Chinese Five Spice powder, Pink peppercorns
  • The Canned Goods

    Everything listed in The Basic Canned Goods, Plus...

    • High-quality tuna packed in olive oil
    • Refried beans (vegetarian tend to be healthiest, but the Old El Paso brand makes one with chorizo which is just so good.)
    • Pinto Beans
    • Black beans
    • White beans
    • Garbanzo beans

    The Refrigerator

    Everything listed in The Basic Refrigerator, Plus...

    • Brick-style cream cheese
    • Sour cream
    • Swiss cheese
    • Part-skim mozzerella
    • A wedge of real, aged parmesan cheese
    • Full-fat or reduced fat plain yogurt
    • Lowfat buttermilk
    • Mayonnaise
    • Ground turkey
    • Large (usually 20-28 per pound) shell-on shrimp
    • Bone-in pork loin chops
    • Sweet and/or hot Italian sausages
    • Seasonal vegetables (peas or asparagus in spring, sweet corn and great tomatoes in summer, although the tomatoes don't belong in the fridge, it's bad for their flavor, butternut squash in the fall, beets in the winter)
    • Corn tortillas
    • Spring mix
    • Spinach
    • Portabello or cremini mushrooms
    • Breakfast sausage

    The Freezer

    • Vanilla ice cream
    • Frozen waffles (I know, I know, but seriously, they are so easy, and yummy)
    • Frozen vegetables: peas, corn, green beans--whatever you like
    • Frozen poundcake (for an impromptu dessert)

    The Gadgets and Tools

    All of the Basic Gadgets and Tools, Plus...

    • Microplane grater
    • Meat mallet or pounder
    • High-quality, sharp 5-6 inch utility knife
    • High-quality, sharp, thin, flexible fillet knife
    • Knife sharpener
    • Slotted spoon
    • Sloped-sided, long-handled saucepan or saucier (If you're dying to buy me a present, this would be lovely.)
    • 6-8 quart Dutch oven (This one is excellent.)
    • 12-inch heavy-bottomed traditional (not non-stick) skillet (This one is surprisingly affordable and extremely durable, although the base could be a little wider.)
    • Loaf pan, either metal or glass (I like Pyrex, but some people like metal. The silicone ones are popular too.)
    • Large roasting pan with a V-rack (I have this one, it's almost too huge, but I know it'll be more useful to me as I go along.)
    • Food processor (At least 8 cups, 11 would be better, with a minimum of a chopping blade, a shredder disk and a chopping disk. I recommend this one).

    The Intermediate Pantry Recipe: Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms

    4 large portabello mushrooms, wiped clean, dark gills scraped out with a spoon

    1/2 lb. hot or sweet Italian sausages, removed from casings

    1/4 lb. fresh spinach

    2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press

    8 ounces (one package) brick style cream cheese, at room temperature

    4 ounces part-skim mozzerella, shredded

    2 ounces parmesan, grated

    1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

    1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Preheat oven to 450. Place mushroom caps upside down on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast at 450 degrees until slightly softened and giving off some of their liquid, 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, pour off liquid, and let cool.

    In a large skillet over medium heat, brown sausage, breaking up with a spoon or a spatula. Stir in garlic and saute until fragrent, 30 seconds or so. Drain off most of the rendered fat, remove sausage from skillet and set aside. Add 1/4 cup water to skillet, raise heat to medium high, and add spinach. Steam spinach until wilted and tender, 3-4 minutes. In a colander set over the sink, drain the spinach, pressing down on the spinach to get out as much moisture as possible.

    Move the spinach to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Process in 1-second pulses, 5-6 of them, until spinach is well-chopped but not pureed.

    In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, sausage, spinach, bread crumbs, half of the mozzerella and about 3/4 of the parmesan. Stir in the Italian seasoning and taste for salt and pepper.

    Divide stuffing among mushroom caps. Top each with the leftover cheese. Bake at 450 degrees until bubbly and browning. Serve.

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