Let’s talk about mushrooms!
I have a love/hate relationship with mushrooms. I love to eat them, but sometimes they make me vomit. Same with wine (why, God, why?) and, in an unexpected twist this week, sometimes summer squash. But, like I said, I LOVE mushrooms and will choose to eat them based on how convenient it might be at that moment to vomit spontaneously.
What’s that you say? It’s never convenient to vomit? Well, you would be right, sir, but have you ever tasted mushrooms? They’re delicious. This is the dilemma of my life.
On the other hand, my dad, Freddie Donroe, has a hate/hate relationship with mushrooms. Unlike all of the other things my dad claims to hate when he really just doesn’t realize he likes them, my dad really does hate mushrooms. Here’s why.
When my dad was much, much younger, his father, Albert Donroe (my Poppi), used to take him to forage for mushrooms. I assume, since Poppi’s family was from Naples, that this was in his blood, or, at the very least, he had some tutelage. Poppi had a special place they always went, some woods near a quarry in Hamden, Connecticut (maybe East Rock, maybe Sleeping Giant). There, according to my dad, Poppi would go over every rotting stump he could find and gather mushrooms of every shape and size. To hear my dad tell the story, Poppi never turned one down, food poisoning be damned.
After about 45 minutes, and what I can only imagine was my dad’s constant whining, they returned home so Poppi could cook them. And this is where things got really ugly. Sometimes, he cooked them in a sauce for spaghetti, but usually they were just sautéed. The smell was so bad, my dad remembers, he’d completely lose his appetite. I believe “hellacious” was the word he used to describe it. Nobody else in the house would touch the stuff, so Poppi just cooked them for himself. Meanwhile, my dad would make himself scarce for as long as the smell lingered. To this day, he can’t stomach them.
Now, the question I have is, was Poppi really that bad of a cook? Perhaps, not a very discriminating hunter/gatherer? Or were they, in fact, delicious, but my dad just hates mushrooms? Anyone else ever taste them? Because I’m willing to bet I would have been smacking my lips, even as they were wheeling me to the ER. (Poppi, by the way, is a whopping 93.)
The following recipe is Nonni’s Marchigiano recipe for stuffed mushrooms. They have never made me vomit.
The secret to these is long, slow cooking in a cool oven. Don’t rush them.
10 oz. package button mushrooms
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
¼ cup fresh bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 300°F. To the bottom of an 8”x8” pan, add 1 Tbsp. of the oil.
Using a damp towel, wipe dirt off of mushrooms. Gently, pull out the stems and chop them finely. In a medium bowl, combine chopped stems with garlic, bread crumbs, cheese, salt, and pepper. Working over the bowl, mound stuffing into hollowed out mushrooms. Set in oiled pan. Drizzle with remaining 2 Tbsp. of oil. Bake uncovered for 1 hour or longer (Nonni cooks the hell out of them and that’s how I like them).
Dora [Barbaresi] Donroe
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