Sunday, December 5, 2010

Stuffed Mushrooms (like Olive Garden's)

  When I was in high school, we took a family vacation to Disney World.  On the drive home, we stopped in Lakeland, Florida to eat dinner at the Olive Garden.  Mom ordered one of those appetizer samplers where you could pick three things.  I remember the platter being placed on the table, and looking at Mom sitting across the table, telling us what she ordered.  My brother, who was in elementary school at the time, looked at me and we started to add things to our plates of things to try - there was fried zucchini (oh, how I love thee...), fried mozzarella (I still contend cheese is a most perfect food), and stuffed mushrooms.   I had no idea those little suckers could taste so good.  But they did.  It was one of those tastes that haunts a mushroom lover; randomly in the years after that trip my mom, my brother, or I would just be hit with a craving for those mushrooms.  Being a good hour and half away from the nearest Olive Garden, it wasn't something easily rectified.

  While hunting for a different stuffed mushroom recipe for Mom, I ran across this one.  This recipe is floating around on many cooking websites online, and with excellent reason.  This copycat recipe produces the best stuffed mushroom that has ever passed my lips.  Actually, if you ask me, I find them to be better than those from Olive Garden - high praise coming from someone that loves the OG as much as I do. 

Stuffed Mushrooms (like Olive Garden's)

12 or more fresh white button mushrooms (depends on the size of the mushrooms)
6 oz. can clams, drained and finely minced
1/4 cup clam juice (can be reserved from the canned clams or purchased separately - I used the bottled juice)
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon  minced garlic
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon oregano leaves
1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon finely grated Romano cheese
2 tablespoon finely grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated mozzarella, for topping
1/4 cup melted butter, for topping
Optional - finely chopped parsley for garnish

  Begin by preheating your oven to 350°F.  Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems.  Save the stems for another use. (Sauteed in a little butter, served over rice is fantastic, if you ask me.)  Lightly grease a baking dish, and set aside.

  In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the clams, green onion, garlic salt, garlic, 1 tablespoon of melted butter, and oregano. Once that is well blended, add in bread crumbs, beaten egg, and clam juice.  Stir until it is well mixed, and stir in the Parmesan, Romano, and 2 tablespoons of mozzarella.  Stuff the mushrooms, slightly mounding the stuffing mixture.

  Place the stuffed mushrooms to the baking dish.  Pour the 1/4 cup of melted butter over the mushrooms, and cover the baking dish with aluminum foil.  Place the dish into the preheated oven to bake for 35-40 minutes.  Remove, sprinkle the 1/4 cup of mozzarella and return to the oven until the cheese melts.  Sprinkle with parsley before serving, if desired.

Notes- This dish is great for the holidays.  You can prepare the mushrooms and place in the baking dish (don't pour the butter over yet), cover with foil, in the morning.  Stash in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake them that evening.  Preheat the oven, then pour over the melted butter at this point and continue the recipe from there.  And pssst - I don't think too many folks would notice if you just use Parmesan for both the Parmesan and Romano.

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