Sad to say that I lost Miss Hunt in 2013. I have updated this post a bit as a result.
I normally will search for recipes on-line when I am looking for something new to make in the kitchen. The recipes are normally very complex and somewhat difficult to put together due to unusual ingredients, specialized equipment, long preparation times, and/or confusing preparation methods.
My goal is to approximate the recipes and get a good result, but minimize the odd stuff. The stuffed peppers and mushroom recipes are variants on recipes I found on-line by Emeril and someone who now has been forgotten. The original goal was to replicate the Jalapeño popper recipe I learned years ago in Mexican cooking class, but have misplaced. I wanted a recipe that baked the poppers rather than fried them and I wanted to be able to make them fast as we eat them fast. [Making slow and eating fast is problematic for geeks.]
It took significant effort on my part and Miss Hunt’s eating part to get the popper recipe worked out. She has a low threshold for hot (spicy) food so a low intensity pepper like Jalapeños worked out. After making the poppers for a few months, I wanted to modify it to use mushrooms [too an enthusiastic Miss Hunt]. I found that the cheese filling was perfect to cap the bottom of the mushrooms and I added curry powder to the stuffing part to give it a flavor that is one of her favorites.
The cheese mixture turned out to be very flexible as it could be made ahead of time and stored for long periods. It is just a mixture of cream cheese and shredded pepper jack at about equal ratio. The beauty of this is that if you have some cheese mixture in the refrigerator, you have cut prep time considerably.
10->12 oz pepper jack cheese
10->12 oz cream cheese
12 Jalapeño peppers or 12 button mushrooms (5-6cm / 2-2.5in length or diameter respectively)
Box of panko (Japanese bread crumbs, regular bread crumbs aren’t as effective)
Small onion (mushrooms)
Curry powder (for mushrooms) [If you are a cook, I am assuming you will have miscellaneous spices to use.]
Shred 10 or 12 oz of pepper jack cheese. Mix with an equal size chunk of cream cheese. [Hint: shred the pepper jack while the cheese is cold and then warm to ambient before attempting to mix it with the cream cheese.]
I would double or triple this mixture preparation since you can store the remainder in the refrigerator for a while.
The mixture is the consistency of play dough and is just as much fun.
At the market, purchase the largish peppers (i.e., 5-6 cm/2-2.5in) rather than the little ones. Little peppers work fine, but you will have additional preparation time and they don’t hold as much pepper goodness.
Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Line a baking pan with foil and oil/spray it. (Cheese is sticky)
Heat a cup of panko crumbs in the microwave with 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter. (the real kind) You will use this as a coating on the poppers. Put this is a small bowl or dish with low sides.
Wash the peppers and nip off the stem at the stem/pepper interface.
Cut the peppers along the length into two mirror image sections. [Hint: see how the peppers sit on the cutting board balanced on the heaviest side? Turn them 90 degrees when cutting so that they will sit properly in the pan due to weight distribution.]
Cut out the seeds and the white membranes and discard. This material usually has the highest concentration of Capsaicin (the hot stuff.) Leave the membranes in if you like it hot. The seeds are just a PITA and will be tough so get rid of those.
001 Mold some of the cheese mixture into the peppers.
002 Holding the sides of the pepper, mash it down into the buttered panko so the panko sticks to the cheese mixture.
003 Place on the baking dish.
004 Go to 001 until all the peppers are prepared.
[The above is a geek joke: I started with Fortran 66 on an 8080 processor.]
Bake for about 30 minutes.
Note that these are highly volatile and last about 15 minutes if you have more than one person. Make a whole half sheet pan if you have a party.
The mushroom poppers were a nod to MissHunt who isn’t as fond of spicy food. This recipe was just made up one day, but I am sure there were influences from a variety of sources.
Clean the mushrooms and cut off the ugly bit at the stem bottom.
Carefully cut out the stem from the mushrooms leaving a depression in the inside.
Finely dice up the stem material <1mm dice.
Dice up a small amount of onion the same size. (A couple of tablespoons is enough) Update: I increased the amount of onion in future batches and added a diced garlic clove. [Hint: You could use other alliums if you want to like shallots, but I wouldn’t use garlic in that amount. Experiment, but don’t be foolish.]
Saute the diced mixture for a few minutes until it is soft. Add salt and black pepper (~1/4 teaspoon.
Add the same amount of curry powder, more if you like it a lot. Update: I also add 1/4 tsp of powdered red pepper and some black pepper. Transfer the stuffing to a small glass bowl and allow to cool a bit. [Hint: curry will stain plastic depending on the polymers.]
So now you have the mushrooms, the stuffing, the cheese mixture, and the panko on the counter with the prepared baking sheet. If not, return to the proper step above.
Distribute the stuffing between the mushroom caps with a small spoon.
This can be loosely packed.
Using your play dough skills, make a small cap of the cheese mixture to place over the mushroom cap. If you over cheese at this point, a lot of it will melt into the pan. [Thus, the reason for the aluminum foil]
Mash the stuffed mushroom into the buttered panko so that it sticks to the cheese mixture. This does not have to be pretty or uniform, but geek out if you wish.
Place each mushroom cap down on the baking sheet.
Bake for 25-30 mi until the panko is toasted on the top. If you like mushrooms raw, you can bake it less.
The cheese mixture melty mess in the pan is part of the process. It is also very tasty. The cook may want to save these bits for their own pleasure.
You could also add parmesan cheese to the panko if you wanted to add more flavor.
I have used different spices in the mushrooms incluing Thyme, Parsley, Basil, and a bit of Sage. A little garlic powder doesn’t hurt in the mushroom stuffing.