Appetizers or Not?

November 26, 2008

Do you have appetizers on Thanksgiving? Appetizers in general are something I have always struggled with. If I am cooking a big dinner for a party, do I want to serve people food
before the food? Over time I have learned to go one of two directions. Either really embrace the appetizer and make something great and maybe tone down dinner a little, or serve something really simple (like olives and nuts) and really amp up the dinner. Either way, you have to serve something.

My mom always worried about the appetizer thing on Thanksgiving. She had cooked for days, so if anyone was not starving, she was insulted. Gradually, she learned to let that go and would actually allow a little cheese plate that my friend Michelle puts together to grace the coffee table.

This year, our first year of hosting, I am having no problem serving appetizers. We have so many people coming (19 adults, 10 children) that I am not sure if I have way too much food or not enough, so I figure if everyone nibbles when they get here, we will be fine. (My husband will tell you that, if I am worried that there is not enough food, that means there is exactly 1 and half times too much.) I farmed out app duty to two friends and then, at the last minute, because I don’t have enough to do, decided to make these mushrooms.

I first made these at a party that I catered back in January. A partner of one of my clients was throwing a baby shower for his daughter and asked me to make the food. It was my first big-ish party (60) and my baby was not yet 1, so this was a real challenge for me. It all turned out great and the clients were really happy. I like to think it was partly due to the mushrooms. I set out A LOT of food, and these were the first to go. Like in the first 20 minutes – just gone. The recipe comes from the people at Cook’s Illustrated and you know that when they make something, they make it to death until it’s perfect. These are great party food, no plate or even napkin necessary. Just pick up and eat. And repeat.

Spinach and Lemon Stuffed Mushrooms
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Makes 24

Note that the photo above is the “before” picture. You can make these up to 3 days in advance through this stage (before being dipped in bread crumbs and baked). If you are having a crowd, don’t hesitate to either 1 1/2 or double this recipe. You won’t be sorry. Also, choose large mushrooms, they lose a lot of their size when going through the roasting.

1/2 cup frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

3 tbsp. lemon juice

3 scallions, sliced thin

1/2 tsp. salt

24 large mushrooms, stems removed

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp. lemon juice

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup store-bought bread crumbs or panko

1. For the topping: Process first 8 ingredients in food processor until smooth. Transfer to zip-loc bag until ready to use.

2. For the mushrooms: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil and set wire rack inside baking sheet. Toss mushrooms with oil, lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper in bowl. Arrange mushrooms gill side up on rack and roast until juices are released, about 20 minutes. Turn caps over and roast until mushrooms are well browned, about 10 minutes.

3. Remove baking sheet from oven. Flip roasted mushrooms gill side up and cool slightly. Snip off one corner, then fill mushrooms. (Mushrooms can be made to this point, up to three days ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.)

4. Press each cap (stuffing side down) into bread crumbs and arrange (topping side up) on rack. Bake until filling is hot and topping is golden, about 10 minutes. Cool about 5 minutes before serving.


  1. These mushrooms look delicious, Dana!
    I think it’s better to be on the safe side – too much food is better than not enough.

    Comment by Vera — November 26, 2008 @ 4:01 am

  2. I always serve appetizers. Food before food, food after food, food inside food..I do it all! These mushrooms sound so perfect for an appetizer, theyre the perfect size too. Happy thanksgiving!

    Comment by veggie belly — November 27, 2008 @ 1:37 am

  3. Those sound great, especially to make for a large crowd.

    Comment by Chocolate Shavings — November 28, 2008 @ 1:03 am

  4. This sounds like a great recipe! I love stuffed mushrooms but I have yet to find a really good recipe that a) doesn’t rely on bacon or some type of meat for the flavor or b) is not stuffed almost entirely with bready filling. I can’t wait to try this! Oh, and my family never has appetizers before Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner- I never even thought about it before- but it’s probably because the dinner itself is so ridiculously big!

    Comment by Emily Rose — December 2, 2008 @ 5:11 pm

  5. I made these today, and they were a HUGE hit. Not one left, and there were only 6 of us for dinner:) Very tasty, but not super filling, so you can still eat dinner. Thanks for the recipe, I’ll be making these regularly.

    Comment by Mara — December 15, 2008 @ 4:20 am

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