Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Magic Mushrooms

"If you see a fairy ring,
In a field of grass,
Very lightly step around,
Tiptoe as you pass;
Last night fairies frolicked there,
And they're sleeping somewhere near.

If you see a tiny fay
Laying fast asleep,
Shut your eyes and run away,
Do not stay or peep;
And be sure you never tell,
Or you'll break a fairy spell."

          -William Shakespeare

Fairy rings (aka., fairy circles, elf circles, elf rings, or pixie rings) are naturally occurring rings of mushrooms. Centuries-old tales depict fairy rings as meeting places of fairies to dance and sing, and were thought to be portals to a magical kingdom where fairies and other mythical creatures dwell. For thousands of years, some people have believed that walking into a fairy ring could bring misfortune from either death at a young age (that's awful!!!), or the possibility of being trapped in a fairy world, unable to escape. According to these old traditions, the only way to be safe was to run around the fairy ring exactly nine times (never ten) while under a full moon. Wearing a hat backwards is also said to offer protection, as it is supposed to confuse the fairies. Really? Today there is little superstition linked to fairy rings; although, some delight in the notion that if you step in a fairy ring, you are granted a wish. (If you want to risk the chance of dying at a young age!) 

Whatever you choose to believe, mushrooms are enchanting and delicious when stuffed! This delightful version, stuffed with fresh goat cheese, sauteed mushroom stems, thyme, and shallots, garnished with fairy-size sprouts and a swirl of balsamic glaze really allow the mushrooms to shine! How enchanting!

Stuffed Mushroom Caps

Serves 6

6 hockey-puck-sized button mushrooms
Olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3-4 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs (Panko works well, too.)
Handful chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 4 ounces fresh chevre (goat cheese)
Watercress or other sprouts, for serving
Balsamic glaze, for serving (can be purchased at most grocers)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Carefully remove and finely chop the mushroom stems, set aside. Set the caps, holes downwards, on a baking sheet, rub with a little olive oil, and bake 10 minutes to shrink slightly.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat, and gently fry the shallot until slightly soft, about 3 minutes. Add the mushroom stems, and cook until soft, about 5 more minutes. Add the garlic, chili pepper, and thyme, saute 1 more minute. Stir through all but a spoonful of the breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat, taste, and season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, stir together the parsley and remaining bread crumbs.

Pull the mushrooms from the oven, and turn them holes skywards. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the cheese evenly among them, pile on the filling, then scatter the parsley mixture evenly over the top. Drizzle with olive oil, and bake until the tops are golden and the filling very hot, about 20 minutes. Serve with watercress or sprouts, lightly dressed with olive oil and salt, on the side and a generous swirl of balsamic glaze. How pretty!

Recipe adapted from French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating, by Laura Calder.

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