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Jan 7, 2014
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WINE WITH…Mushrooms Stuffed with Beef, Rice and Feta

Stuffed veggies--squash, eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes--should be a standby in any home-kitchen worth its, um, salt. Variations on the theme are endless as the stuffing can include meat, barley, rice, fish, cheese, and/or combinations of the above. Of all the options of fillable vegetables, mushrooms may offer the tastiest companionship to a nice bottle of red wine. With their meaty texture, full earthy flavors, and built-in little concave nests begging to be filled up, mushrooms are one of nature’s most delectable vehicles for stuffing.

Add a few raisins to the stuffing if you like, or a handful of pine nuts. Accompany the dish with a colorful vegetable such as braised spinach or steamed broccoli.

Portabella Mushrooms Stuffed with Beef, Rice and Feta

Serves four

¼ cup olive oil (or more, as needed)
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 cup cooked white or brown rice
2 teaspoons dried thyme, or several sprigs fresh thyme
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup white wine, divided use
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
8 large portabella mushrooms
2 tablespoons bread crumbs (Panko, for example)

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until it softens, then add the garlic and ground beef. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the beef is cooked through. Add the rice and 1 teaspoon thyme (if using fresh, save a few sprigs to cook with the mushrooms). Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, then pour in ½ cup of the wine and cook until the wine has been absorbed. Remove from heat, and when the mixture has cooled, stir in the Feta. May be made up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated.

To finish the dish, preheat the oven to 350°.

Arrange the mushrooms in a single layer in one or two sided baking sheets. Carefully ease the stems out of the mushrooms and discard them. Scoop out enough of the gills to create a generous cavity. Drizzle a little olive oil over the mushrooms and season with a little salt and pepper. Flip them over, cavity side down, and gently rub a little olive oil over the backs of the mushrooms. Drizzle the remaining ½ cup of wine over them and season lightly with more salt and pepper. Add the dried thyme or the remaining sprigs of fresh thyme, cover the pan with foil, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the mushroom caps are soft. Turn the mushrooms over and divide the beef mixture among them, mounding it generously on top of each cap. Top each with a light dusting of bread crumbs and a drizzle of olive oil. Return to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned and the dish is thoroughly heated through.

* * *

This is definitely a red wine dish, as all but the most robust whites will be overwhelmed by it. Yet not all of the reds we tried performed equally well. A Brouilly from Beaujolais, for example, simply did not have enough oomph to hold its own. And overtly fruity wines from California (a Pinot Noir and a Merlot) seemed too sweet. The best matches came instead from reds with distinctly earthy flavors. They echoed the equally earthy, meaty flavors in the dish, making for a seamless, harmonious, and very tasty dining experience.


Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Chateau de Caladroy, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (France) “Cuvée Les Schistes” 2010

(Imported by Vintage 59 Imports)

$18

An intensely flavored but medium-bodied wine, marked by dark fruit that is tempered by mineral-rich undertones, leaving it dry and satisfying. It made for a luscious match.

Can Blau, Montsant (Spain) 2012

(Imported by The Country Vintner)

$19

A blend of 40% Mazuelo, 40% Syrah and 20% Grenacha, this Catalonian beauty gave an already flavorful dish added depth. Its long finish only added to the enjoyment.

Churchill’s Estates, Douro (Portugal) 2010

(Imported by Frederick Wildman)

$19

A beautiful red from the Douro Valley, this wine is made with traditional Port varieties (40% Touriga Nacional; 30% Touriga Franca and 30% Tinta Roriz), but is completely dry. It paired especially well with the stuffing.

Domaine de la Chique, Côtes du Rousillon (France) 2008

(Imported by USA Wine West)

$15

With herbal undertones and more than a hint of minerality, this blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan keeps its ripe fruit flavors in check. Its satisfyingly dry character is what enabled it to pair so well with our stuffed mushrooms.

Planeta, Sicilia (Italy) “La Segreta” 2012

(Imported by Palm Bay)

$15

A spicy red, due to the presence of 50% Nero d’Avola in the blend, this wine accentuated the pepper flakes in the dish, making it too seem spicy and satisfying. Though fruity, it in no sense seemed overblown.