I suspect that we won’t be going to parties quite as much as usual this year. Where in the past we were often tasked with making multiple hors d’oeuvres or fancy Christmas cookies to bring along, this year we can focus on making special foods for our families. It’s probably what most of us have been wanting to do every Advent but couldn’t find the time. I have found a recipe that brings delight to young and old alike—perfect for a special family evening.
- olive oil
- 2 stalks of celery, washed and finely diced
- 1/4 cup white or yellow onion, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 lb Italian sausage (can use sweet or hot, pork or chicken)
- 3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Bechamel sauce (recipe follows)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 24-30 (about 1.5 lbs) large mushrooms, stems removed—button or baby portabellas work well
- Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- pinches of salt, pepper, and nutmeg
Heat oven to 450˚F.
Make bechamel sauce: Melt butter in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk constantly for 4-5 minutes. As you are whisking, bring the milk just to a boil. Pour in (all at once) to the butter mixture, whisking constantly for another 4-5 minutes until very thick. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil (to coat the bottom of the pan) over medium heat. Sauté the celery, onion, and garlic, stirring often with a wooden spoon to prevent burning. Add oil as necessary. Once softened and fragrant, scrape out into a large mixing bowl.
In same skillet, cook the sausage, breaking it up with a spoon, until cooked though. Add cooked sausage to the bowl with the celery, onion, and garlic. Stir in parsley, fennel, and red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper.
Thoroughly stir in bechamel sauce.
Using a dinner spoon, fill each mushroom cap with sausage filling, packing down gently. Grate Parmesan cheese over tops and then lightly drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for 15 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.
You can also use this filling in mini sweet peppers. Simply wash the peppers, slice off the ends and de-seed, then stuff and cook as above.