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Oct 4, 2016
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WINE WITH…Mushrooms Stuffed with Lamb and Rice

It must be the fall season--cooler weather, falling leaves, shorter days--that is making us crave comfort foods. Lately we’ve been dining on spaghetti Bolognese, shrimp and grits, chili and such. Comfort food, like a comfort animal, is said to increase positive feelings and help provide a sense of emotional, as well as physical wellbeing. Each country has its own notions of comfort food, but here in the United States we turn to simple, somewhat retro dishes that are often anchored by rice, potatoes, pasta, beans or cornmeal. Adding further comfort, and certainly pleasure to these meals, is the fact that this kind of fare is especially good with wine.

Most recently we whipped up a batch of portabella mushrooms stuffed with lamb and rice. What’s next--chicken tetrazzini? Pot roast? Ham and split pea soup?

Mushrooms Stuffed with Lamb and Rice

Serves 2-4

2 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
1/3 cup minced onion
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 pound ground lamb
2 tablespoons each minced fresh mint and parsley
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs such as panko
1 cup cooked rice
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
4-6 portabella mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 400°

Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add the onion and cook until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two; then add the lamb. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the lamb is just cooked through (do not let it brown). Stir in the herbs and pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

Place the rice in a large bowl and add the cooled lamb mixture. Blend in the beaten egg and half of the cheese. Trim the mushrooms and lay them bottoms up in an oiled or parchment-lined baking dish. Season them lightly with salt and pepper; then spoon the lamb mixture on top of each one. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over them and drizzle each with a little olive oil. Bake about 20-25 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is browned on top.

* * *

This is much more a red wine dish than a white wine one. If you insist on a white, choose a wine that tastes rich and full. The Chardonnay we are recommending, for example, has just enough stuffing to stand up to the assertive flavors of both the mushrooms and the lamb. Reds, though, will fare better, due largely to their own hearty characters. You don’t need a wine that is muscular or aggressively tannic, but you will want one that is either overtly fruity or fairly earthy. The former will provide a juicy contrast to the dish, while the latter will echo its own somewhat rustic flavors.

More recipes and wine pairings:    Wine With...  
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Approx. Price


Chamonix, Franschhoek (South Africa) Pinot Noir Reserve 2014

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)


A savory, spicy Pinot that at two and a half years of age already shows some signs of maturity, this wine complemented the dish nicely. It offered hints of dried thyme and other herbs that echoed the deep flavors of the meat and mushrooms, and its fruit, while still fresh, seemed refined rather than just exuberant.

Davis Bynum, Russian River Valley Sonoma County (California) Pinot Noir “Jane’s Vineyard”



The opposite of the Chamonix Pinot, this wine is bursting with ripe, juicy, and yes, sweet fruit flavor. It’s succulent, and as such provides an appetizing contrast to the earthy dish.


Sonoma Coast





By far the best white wine match we tried, this beautifully balanced Chardonnay worked with the dish because it tastes fresh and vibrant. The meaty flavors of the portabellas do threaten to overwhelm it, particularly in its finish, but it is so well-structured that it manages to keep going and end on a high note.

Maison Nicolas Perrin,




(Imported by Vineyard Brands)


True to its origin, this is a distinctly earthy wine, with echoes of smoked meat, tobacco, and savory spice in addition to plenty of Syrah fruit flavor. As such, it complemented both the portabellas and the lamb very well, its meatiness playing off the dish harmoniously.

Stinson Vineyards, Virginia

Cabernet Franc



The best wine we have tried to date from this family run winery in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this medium-bodied red resembles a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley in its floral and stony bouquet, while tasting quite American with its bright, ripe fruit. Very well-balanced, it was the surprise of our tasting.