A Thanksgiving Meal tradition in my family, which I’ve never seen elsewhere, is what we call “antipasto.”
I’ve seen antipasto in other places, but it’s not the same thing we prepare. Oh, those strange divergent Napolitani… Our “pizzelles” aren’t the same thing as your pizzelles either, for the record.
So, for the antipasto, which is served first: You layer a serving dish with rolled slices of salami, then load the top of that with olives (black and green), sliced roasted peppers, capers, chunks of provolone cheese, artichoke hearts, and I forget what else.
It’s basically a vehicle for salt, and yes, it’s pretty much an entire meal on its own.
THEN my mom serves the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, squash, green beans, bread, mushrooms… Hooboy.
Mushrooms?, you ask me. What mushrooms?
Stuffed mushrooms. And regardless of what my mom says, I make the best ones. I’ll tell you so you can do it too.
Pull the stems from the mushrooms. Whirl the stems to smithereens in the food processor, or just chop them up real small. Chop up some onion and garlic the same way, and fry the onion and garlic in butter. Add the mushroom smithereens to the frying pan, and fry those. When that’s done, lower the heat a bit. Add shredded mozarella cheese, and then add bread crumbs.
Mix all that goop together in the pan and you get mushroom stuffing.
Then stuff the mushroom caps. Kiss your fingers goodbye if you do this too soon, because that stuffing will be HOT.
Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the lot. Bake in the oven until the mushrooms are cooked (about 15 minutes) and grab a couple before everyone else does. You might want to have a chef’s knife on hand to keep people at bay until the mushrooms get to the table.
(And yes, we’re Italian to the point that it used to be, my grandparents would serve a lasagna for Thanksgiving dinner. But they felt unAmerican just to have pasta on Thanksgiving Day. So after the lasagna was eaten, my grandmother would clear away the pasta dishes and then serve an entire turkey dinner! My mother’s friend tells me, “By then everyone was so full that they’d just look at it,” but I don’t believe her. I’ve heard tales of the way my grandfather could eat. I’m betting they didn’t have anything leftover at the end of the day.)
Seriously, go out and buy some nice mushrooms (they don’t have to be stuffing mushrooms; any kind will do) and make some for your family. It costs like two bucks and takes fifteen minutes, and you can prepare them ahead of time. I did this for my in-laws the first year I spent Christmas with them, and all the mushrooms vanished. The next day, when we were making the leftover second-day version of Christmas Day dinner, I opened the fridge to find…a second package of mushrooms! We figured that was my FIL’s way of telling me he approved without actually having to say, “Those were good, Philangelus.” So I made them again.)