Fun Foodstuffs For Today

Tom Fitzmorris February 04, 2020 11:18 Almanac

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020


The Lone Eagle. Snickers. Stuffed Mushrooms. Mushroom Corner. Bechamel. Anorexia. Inventor Of The Soup Kitchen.


Annals Of Sandwich Making 


Today is the birthday (in 1902) of Charles Lindbergh. In addition to his many claims to fame, he is the inspiration for a sandwich that's still served here and there around New Orleans. The Lone Eagle is a grilled turkey and ham sandwich. After it's assembled, two of the corners are cut off, rotated ninety degrees, and cheese gets melted over the whole thing. It is supposed to look like an airplane.


Chronicles Of Candy


Today is the disputed birthday (although we're sure the year was 1930) of Snickers, the biggest-selling candy bar in the world. Two billion dollars' worth are sold every year. It was created by Frank Mars, the second of what would become an immensely successful line. Like the Mars Bar (later renamed Milky Way), Snickers consisted of layers of nougat and caramel, covered in chocolate. The magic touch was the addition of peanuts. Snickers were named after one of the Mars family's horses. It reached a low point when people started deep-frying them. All that's left now is to crumble bacon and blue cheese on top of it. Then the world will end.


Food Calendar


Today is National Stuffed Mushroom Day. The impulse to stuff a mushroom is very strong. You pull the stem out of a nice big mushroom and there it is, a gaping pocket, with a restraining rim, begging to be filled with . . . something. But what? The range of variety among stuffings is matched by the variability of the results. The best stuffed mushrooms are among the most delicious tidbits imaginable. The worst are those where it's hard to tell where the mushroom ends and the stuffing begins. Lack of contrast is ever a flaw.


The best stuffed mushrooms begin with fresh, firm, mushrooms. You wouldn't want to use a very expensive or assertively flavored mushroom, though--those should be left to make their own statements. The basic white mushroom may be the best of all for this purpose. Also important: size. Buy them a size bigger than you think you need.


To my tastes, the best stuffing is crabmeat, small shrimp, or oysters; a little bacon; bread crumbs; garlic or green onions, and seasonings. The stuffing should be moist but not wet; crumbs should fall out of it easily. After stuffing, the whole thing is baked until toasty, but not so long that the mushrooms start getting mushy. The final touch is a small amount of a rich sauce. Hollandaise is the ultimate.


But there are many other ways to go with this. One of my house specialties is mushrooms stuffed with spicy Italian sausage and melted Fontina cheese over the top. Certain foods are the perfect size for a mushroom cavity. Snails, for example. Crawfish. Big lumps of crabmeat. Whatever you do, be prepared to stuff, bake and sauce your mushrooms immediately before you serve them. Hot mushrooms filled with warm stuffing turn to glop quickly. My wife likes to drop a slice of Italian Sausage in the hole.


Deft Dining Rule #156: Never order stuffed mushrooms without knowing what they're stuffed with.


Edible Dictionary


bechamel, French, n.--One of the "mother sauces" of classical French cooking used as a starting point for many other sauces. It's essentially a blonde roux with milk whisked in, with a pinch of nutmeg. Chefs from the old school insisted on straining it through cheesecloth to make it perfectly smooth. Bechamel adds richness and texture to a sauce or a dish (particularly gratins), without adding a foreground flavor. I like using it as a base for crab cakes and stuffings for things like eggplants or mushrooms. It's named for the Marquis de Bechamel, who employed a sauce like it in the cooking for Louis XIV's court.


Delicious-Sounding Places


Mushroom Corner, Washington is the intersection of Steilacoom Road and Marvin Road, on the eastern outskirts of Olympia, the state capital. It gets its name from the presence of Ostrom's Mushroom Farm, a very large producer of edible mushrooms. It's surrounded by residential subdivisions. Asian restaurants and fast food dominate the dining scene there. Within a mile you can eat mushrooms at the Sushi Boat, Fuji Japanese Steakhouse and Wok On Fire Mongolian Grill.


Music To Go Hungry By 


Today in 1983, Karen Carpenter died of starvation at age thirty-two. She suffered from anorexia nervosa--the mental illness that makes a person believe that she's too fat, and must not eat, even though in fact she's already dangerously undernourished. That this should happen to the extraordinarily successful singer--she and her brother were the Carpenters, whose records still sell briskly--got the word out that it could happen to anybody. Once I overheard a young woman sigh and say, "Sometimes I just forget to eat!" I said, "Are you crazy?"


Annals Of Food Writing  


Alexis Benoit Soyer was born in France today in 1810. He was a chef who moved to London and became famous for, among other things, inventing the soup kitchen. With a portable setup and with the help of the British government, he fed thousands of starving Irish during the Potato Famine there. He is well remembered in the United Kingdom. He was an extraordinary culinarian, inventing kitchen equipment and writing a number of books.


Annals Of Dessert


In Brussels today in 1998, Microsoft's Bill Gates had a pie thrown in his face. A cream pie with a lot of whipped cream. Was it lemon? It should have been. And renamed "Vista Pie."


Food Namesakes


This is the birthday of Dan Quayle, the Vice-President during the first Bush Administration. British comic actress Hylda Baker came out of the oven today in 1905. . . Noodles, the guitarist with rock group The Offspring, was born as Kevin Wasserman today in 1963.


Words To Eat By


"Life is too short to stuff a mushroom."--Shirley Conran, British restaurateur and author.


Recipe

Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed With Italian Sausage

Ingredients

  • 8 large portobello mushrooms

  • 3 links spicy Italian sausage, removed from casing

  • 1/2 Tbs. olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped 

  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

  • 1/2 bulb fennel (anise), coarsely chopped

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

  • Dash soy sauce

  • 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped

  • 1/3 cup plain bread crumbs

  • 1/4 cup finely grated Romano cheese

  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Steps

Brush the dirt off the mushrooms and place them cap side down on a medium-hot skillet or griddle for about a minute, until they flatten out slightly. Remove to an oven pan or cookie sheet.

Break the sausage into a skillet and cook with 1/4 cup water over medium heat. Keep stirring to keep the sausage from clumping up. Cook until all the water has been absorbed and no pink is left in the sausage. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon to a bowl lined with two thicknesses of paper towel.

Pour off the fat from the skillet and wipe it lightly with a paper towel. Heat the olive oil in the same pan over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onion, bell pepper, and fennel or celery, and cook until just beginning to soften.

Add the wine, lemon juice, and soy sauce, and bring to a boil while stirring now and then. After a minute, add the sausage and the parsley back and cook until nearly dry.

Remove the pan contents to a bowl. Add the bread crumbs, Romano cheese, and salt. Stir in with a kitchen fork to loosen up the mix.

Spoon the mixture very loosely onto the upturned mushrooms and run under the broiler until the mixture starts to sizzle and the bread crumbs are toasted--about two or three minutes.