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Fantastic Stuffed Mushrooms

Mushroom lovers often delight in trying mushroom dishes, and when the recipe is easy, great tasting and quick, chances are that they might try the recipe over and over. Such is the case of stuffed mushrooms. Not only is the favor fantastic, there are so many variations that are possible that it is difficult to try them all.

Stuffed mushrooms are great as a side dish, however they can even be prepared as a main dish. Either way, it is a good idea to make extra, because this is a meal that is likely to be a fast-disappearing hit for the people who try it. The following is only one possible variation and ingredient amounts are for a main dish for three good appetites, and this would call for about five or six large mushrooms apiece. Experimentation is recommended and encouraged.

Mushrooms

It is best to use larger mushrooms, since they will hold the sauce that is used for the stuffing. The choice of which kind of mushroom to use is up to the person preparing the meal and by what is available. Each kind of mushroom lends a slightly, occasionally greatly, different flavor. This is a meal that can be made with the relatively bland button or white mushroom, with a really good result, however it is suggested that for better and more robust flavor, morel mushrooms can be used.

Whichever is used, the mushrooms should be thoroughly cleaned to remove all debris. If the mushroom has a stem, this should be removed so that the cap has a cavity in which to put the sauce. One advantage of morels is that the cap is hollow, so the stem merely needs to be removed. After cleaning, the caps should be refrigerated, so they are cold when they are used for the final steps.

Meat sauce

It is important to note that the following is only a general suggestion and variations can produce an even better meal suited for individual tastes.

1 pound ground meat (beef, pork, venison, turkey, elk or a combination)
1 small yellow onion, medium diced
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, finely diced
1/2 of a bell pepper, medium diced
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar, colby or jack cheese (other cheese can be substituted or a mixture can be used)
2 8oz cans of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon each of oregano, basil, thyme and chopped rosemary

Lightly brown and crumble the meat over low heat and then add the olive oil, onions, celery, garlic and bell pepper. Cook this mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft. This usually takes 15-20 minutes or so. Stir in the tomato sauce, sugar and seasonings, then cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow it to heat up. This part normally takes about 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Remove the mushroom caps from the refrigerator and place them in a baking pan, top side down, so the cavity is facing upward. Loaf pans seem nearly perfect for this.

Spoon the meat sauce into each cap until the sauce is level with the edge of the mushroom. Sprinkle each with grated cheese and put them in the oven, allowing them to bake until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown. Remove the stuffed mushrooms from the oven and serve.

Any of the ingredients in the meat sauce can be omitted, more or less can be added and other ingredients can be added if they are desired. For instance, chopped black olives can be added to the meat sauce, and if a person prefers their food a little spicier, chopped jalapenos can be cooked into the sauce. Chives can be sliced and added instead of, or in addition to, the onion and garlic for yet another flavor change. Other spices and amount variations, additionally, result in slightly different flavor. Chopped, fresh tomatoes cooked into the sauce can give an explosion of additional flavor, especially if the tomatoes came out of a person’s own garden. The sauce can even be made either with or without salt and ground black pepper.

Though the entire meal is pretty simple and doesn’t take much time, the meat sauce can even be prepared ahead of time, saving yet more time and effort. This meat sauce is versatile enough to be used as a base for spaghetti sauce, tacos, sloppy Joes, or it can be stirred into cooked rice for a surprisingly good stand-alone meal. Because of this, making a large amount of the sauce and freezing it can save time later on, not only for the stuffed mushrooms, but on other meals as well.

It is difficult to find a more appetizing, delicious, nutritious, easy or fast dish that so many people seem to savor. The mushrooms are best when they are originally nice and fresh, so this meal even gives people yet one more reason to go out and collect morels or similar wild mushrooms. Since it works so well with even button mushrooms, it is a great dish late in the year, too. People who love mushrooms owe it to themselves to at least try stuffed mushrooms.