This is the long awaited day. So many people across the nation look forward to the opening day of college football and for many people who have endured disasters–natural or man-made—this day is one the biggest signs of recovery. While the physical town has made huge improvements, sometimes it’s the mental and emotional healing that needs this first game. We need to see people from across the nation come back for our beloved Crimson Tide boys. We need to hear the happy stories from friends we only see each first weekend of September. We are energized by the crowds who returned. Game day is something to look forward to and soak in every minute. The sheer energy this year is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced (then again, I didn’t go to Cali for the national championship game, but we were pretty energized here in T-town). Driving this morning through campus was exciting and overwhelming and everything in between.
But enough about that. It’s a great day to be in Tuscaloosa.
Preparing the field. Painting a Tuscaloosa ribbon on the field.
The Quad on a normal day with the Denny Chimes in the background.
I searched high and low for something different, but something substantial. As my mom’s boss, the tailgating KING for Mississippi State, said “something to stick to you…no chippie dippie”. I found a good recipe for appetizers: stuffed mushrooms. This is courtesy of Ina Garten, but I changed it up a bit.
Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
- 16 extra-large white mushrooms.
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 1/2 tablespoons red wine (optional. Can be left out)
- 3/4 pound Italian or regular sausage, removed from the casings
- 6 scallions, white and green parts, minced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2/3 cup panko crumbs
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 2 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop them finely. Set aside. Place the mushroom caps in a shallow bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and wine.
Place the mushrooms face down on a cooling rack over a cake pan so the juices can collect there. Cook 10 minutes while preparing stuffing.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, crumbling it with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook the sausage for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it’s completely browned. Add the chopped mushroom stems and cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in the scallions and garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the panko crumbs, stirring to combine evenly with all the other ingredients.
Finally, swirl in the cream cheese and continue cooking until the cheese has melted and made the sausage mixture creamy. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, parsley, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cool slightly.
Fill each mushroom generously with the sausage mixture. Arrange the mushrooms in a baking dish large enough to hold all the mushrooms in a snug single layer. Bake for 10 minutes, until the stuffing is browned and crusty. Sprinkle with parmesan and parsley. Serve hot or room temperature.