Recipe – Finger Foods

The funny thing about party food is that you never know what appetizers will grab your guests’ attention. I put these stuffed mushrooms together almost as an afterthought and yet they disappeared in the blink of an eye. I was attracted by the ease with which they can be made and that they only require 20 minutes in the cooking in the oven before coming out piping hot and full of flavour.  

This recipe is based one I found in Tyler Florence’s Eat This Book. To make it, here’s what you’ll need:

24-30 white mushrooms
2 handfuls of cilantro/flat leaf parsley, chopped
½ cup of olives (pitted), chopped
¼ cup of sultana raisins, chopped
1-2 hot chillies, seeded and chopped
1 cup of panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs)
1 cup of freshly grated parmesan (or store bought, if you have to)
3-4 Italian sausages (about 500g or 1lb)
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt (Kosher, if you’ve got it)
Freshly ground pepper
5-7 sprigs of thyme

First off, prep your non-meat ingredients. Remove the stems from the mushroom and make sure you have nice big wells in which to put as much of the meat mixture as possible. Oil an oven-proof baking pan and put in your mushrooms.

Next, combine your chopped olives, raisins, pepper(s), ¾ cups of breadcrumbs, ¾ cups of the parmesan and a table spoon of olive oil. Mix lightly to combine the ingredients.

With that out of the way, remove the minced meat from within the Italian sausage skin. Season with salt and pepper and add the mince to the non-meat mix you just put together.  Now, roll up your sleeves, get your hands in there, and start mixing the ingredients together. This will take about 2-3 minutes and is the most taxing part of the recipe.

Stuff the meat mixture into the mushroom…and don’t be shy! Next, sprinkle the leftover panko and parmesan on top of the stuffed mushrooms. Then, sprinkle the mushrooms with olive oil and drape some thyme over them.

If you’re having a party, you can cover your baking pan and refrigerate for a day. When you’re ready to go, put the uncovered pan in a 240ºC/500ºF preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove, let cool for 5 minutes, and serve.

This past weekend my wife and I hosted a party in honour of our impending move from Montreal to Toronto. The event provided the opportunity to splurge and put together some hors d’oeuvres I’d been eager to try. This recipe for mini hamburgers was one such recipe which combines the challenges of baking . I was inspired to make these after reading Elsa Petersen-Schepelern’s beautiful book Finger Food – a veritable treasure trove of snack and  

amuse geule ideas. Here’s what you’ll need for my take on the mini-burger recipe.

Buns (makes 40)
4g (or 1/8oz) of active dry yeast
25ml of hot water at 38°C/100°F
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 1/3 cups of white all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1/8 cup of cold and chopped up unsalted butter
¾ cup of lukewarm milk (plus a tablespoon extra for brushing)
½ medium egg
Sesame seeds

Mini Burger Patties (makes 40)
2 cups of ground beef, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped (and I mean FINELY!)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of coriander
¼ cup of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) or regular breadcrumbs
Vegetable or peanut oil for sautéing
Sweet chilli or BBQ sauce

Making the Buns:  Take your yeast and whisk it into the warm water. Add the sugar and mix that in, too. Wait about 10 minutes and if the mixture has a nice foamy layer on top (proof), you’re yeast mixture is ready.

While you’re waiting for the yeast to proof, sift your flour into a bowl and mix in the salt. Then rub the butter into the flour with our fingertips until it has disappeared. Your flour should look sandy.

Make a well in the sandy flour/butter mixture, and pour in the yeast mixture, milk, and ½ egg. Take a fork and gradually incorporate the flour/butter into the liquids. You should get a relatively sticky dough, but if yours is too floury add a bit of milk (a tablespoon should do the trick).

Now, flour a work surface, roll up your sleeves, and kneed the dough for about 5-10 minutes until all ingredients are properly incorporated. Your goal is to get an elastic and dough. Once you’ve achieved this, flour the outside of your dough, put it in a large bowl, and cover the bowl with a damp cloth. Wait 1.5 hours for your dough to double in size.

After you dough has inflated, punch it down and kneed lightly for a few minutes. Then, cut your dough up and roll it into balls with one 2.5cm/1 in. diameters. Make sure the balls’ exterior are smooth (i.e., no folds or creases) or else you’ll get freaky cloud shaped buns rather than ones with smooth exteriors. Place them in a baking tray and wait another 30 minutes. Then, brush some milk on the balls, sprinkle them with the sesame seeds, and then bake at 200°C/400°F for 25-30 mins until they sound hollow when they are tapped and the tops are nice and brown.

Wait for them to cook and use immediately, or saran wrap the cooled tray and keep the bread in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Patties:  Now, on to the patties. Take all your ingredients and mix them together in a bowl. It is essential that they are all finely ground – especially the onions – or else your patties will look lumpy. Take your mixture and make 40 or so flat patties that measure a little over 2.5cm/1 inch in diameter. Don’t worry if you think the patties look too flat, they’ll pop up during the cooking process.

Heat up the oil over medium-high heat and put in the first batch of patties. Make sure they’re not too close to each other. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Flip the patties, press down on them, cover the pan and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until done. You know the patties are done if their juices run clear when you press down on them. Clean the pan between batches to make sure there are no burnt bits to spoil your masterpieces.

You can serve immediately or let them cool and keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat them in the oven, garnish with mini gherkins, tomatoes, sweet chilli or BBQ sauce.

These make a great conversation piece and taste great!