This Thanksgiving we survived an 8 hour car ride with a toddler down to San Diego, where Levi had his first zoo experience
. He was excited about every animal he encountered but was especially enamored by the elephants. Once Levi was tuckered out, we headed back to my mother-in-law’s house, where we watched plenty of football, drank plenty of San Diego micro-brews, and had quite a feast: a turkey breast roulade stuffed with brandied fig & cranberry stuffing, gravy, sweet potato gratin, and sautéed brussels sprouts with pancetta, shallot, mushrooms, and balsamic (which actually converted one member of the family who was a self-professed brussels sprouts hater. I was so proud). For dessert we indulged in a vanilla bean cake with salted caramel frosting. It was a wonderful evening and we went to bed feeling thankful for family and the way in which good food and drink bring us together.
As we’re entering the Christmas season and there’s a definite chill in the air, I’ve been allowing the oven to do most of the cooking in the evening, which frees us to
relax and focus on the things that are important, like playing with our ever-changing, ever-moving 19 month old.
Spinach-artichoke dip is one of my favorite appetizers to bring to parties, so I associate it with festive gatherings. We were pleased to bring that spirit of festivity into a weeknight dinner. Portobello mushroom caps are filled with a spinach-artichoke filling and then topped with seasoned panko breadcrumbs. The end result is nothing short of comforting – the perfect hybrid of stuffed mushrooms and spinach-artichoke dip. For a side dish, I roasted some cubed butternut squash with olive oil, thyme, and sage. Even Levi could not resist their caramelized edges. A salad of mixed greens with apple & pomegranate seeds completed the meal.
We wish you many comforting meals during this season of Advent (break out the good wine!) with the people you love, enjoying every last bite.
Portobello Mushrooms with Creamy Spinach-Artichoke Filling
(From the Dec 11/Jan 12 issue of Fine Cooking)
3 TBS. olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic, minced (1 TBS.)
4 medium portabello mushrooms, stemmed, gills removed*
Freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 TBS. mayonnaise
1-1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
9 to 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry**
9 oz. frozen artichokes, thawed, lightly squeezed dry, and chopped***
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup finely grated Romano cheese
* Fine Cooking recommended using a butter knife – it worked great!
** I used fresh baby spinach, sautéed, squeezed, and roughly chopped
*** I used marinated artichokes for more flavor, drained and roughly chopped
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.
- In a small bowl, combine 2 TBS. of the oil and about two-thirds of the minced garlic. Brush the insides of the mushroom caps with the garlic oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Arrange the mushrooms oiled side up on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until just tender, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, mayonnaise, and 1/2 tsp. of the thyme with the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in the spinach and artichokes and season to taste with salt and pepper. In another medium bowl, combine the remaining garlic, 1 TBS. oil, and 1 tsp. thyme with the breadcrumbs and cheese.
- Spoon the artichoke mixture evenly into the mushroom caps and sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake until the crumbs are golden-brown and the filling is hot, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.