Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thanksgiving Menu Teaser: The Appetizers

My husband and I are hosting our first Thanksgiving dinner this year, so there's been a lot of planning and anticipation for the past couple of months. We've hosted all of the other major holiday meals for our family, but not Turkey Day. I will eventually post our entire menu, but to whet your appetite (nice pun, no?), here are the appetizers.

Pumpkin Cheese Ball

from Frightfully Festive Halloween Recipes & Party Ideas, 2002

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
½ (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
¼ cup solid-pack pumpkin
¼ cup pineapple preserves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Beat cheeses, pumpkin, preserves and spices in medium bowl until smooth. Cover; refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or until cheese is firm enough to shape.
2. Shape mixture into round pumpkin; place on serving plate. Using knife, score vertical lines down pumpkin. Place pretzel rod in top for stem.
3. Cover loosely; refrigerate until serving time. Serve with crackers.

Spinach & Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms
From Fine Cooking 63, pp. 86c
February 1, 2004

1 lb. medium white mushrooms (about 24), wiped clean
5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 slices white sandwich bread
4 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry sherry
6 oz. fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs. freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 lemon

how to make
Set an oven rack 6 inches from the top element and heat the broiler to high. Completely remove the mushroom stems; thinly slice the stems. Set the mushroom caps stem side up on a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with 1-1/2 Tbs. of the oil, and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Broil until the mushrooms are brown and completely tender, 6 to 7 minutes.
Pulse the bread in a food processor until it forms uniform crumbs. In a large, heavy sauté pan, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring constantly, until the breadcrumbs crisp and turn light brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and wipe the pan clean. Return the pan to high heat, add the remaining 1-1/2 Tbs. oil and the scallions, and sauté until browned and softened, about 2 minutes. Add the mushroom stems and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring, until the stems soften and brown, about 3 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until almost evaporated, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the spinach and stir until it wilts, about 1 minute. Add the cream and 1/3 cup Parmigiano, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the cream reduces slightly, about 2 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper; let cool.
Discard any liquid that may have accumulated in the mushroom caps. Mound the spinach mixture into the caps; top with the breadcrumbs (press them into the filling) and the remaining 1 Tbs. Parmigiano.
Heat the broiler to high. Broil the caps until the breadcrumbs brown a little more and the mushrooms heat through, 1 to 3 minutes. Squeeze the lemon half over the caps. Serve immediately.

Make Ahead Tips
The mushrooms can be broiled and stuffed up to two days ahead and refrigerated, covered. When ready to serve, bring to room temperature and then broil as directed above until the breadcrumbs are browned and the mushrooms are heated through.

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