Simple, Yet Elegant, Stuffed Mushrooms

simple, yet elegant, stuffed mushrooms

My back was on fire. My fingers were like dough. My hiney felt as though I’d been sitting on a cement curb for 6 hours waiting for the start of some parade. And, I could no longer deny that I do indeed need some form of optical assistance. What I could have whipped out with minimal practicing, twenty-years ago, now required hours, days, weeks at the piano; however, I did not breathe a word of my aches and pains to my main squeeze. I did not want the “glutton for punishment” speech.
Not but a few weeks earlier, I had gleefully agreed to play the piano at the 70th Birthday party for a dear friend’s mother. A show tunes sing-along. Soloists. Women dressed in cocktail dresses from various decades. Men in vintage tuxedos. Gimlets being served upon entering. Cole Porter playing in the background. A stately, 100-year old home. “No gifts please” but donations graciously received for the Letty Owings Center. And, at the center of it all, a grand piano. How could I refuse?

rain drops of crystal
As I grabbed the stack of music and stepped out of the car into the frigid air toward the century-old mansion bathed in twinkling lights, I hoped I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. My daughter and I rapped on the door and were immediately escorted into a picture of elegance with candlelight dancing everywhere against a background of carved wood molding and guests mingling, glasses in hand, in front of a magnificent staircase.
I declined the gimlet (I needed all my wits possible) and headed to the piano for the run-through. Only the night prior, one of the soloists had called me in a panic, wanting to lower the music key of the song. “I need it to start on the A below middle C and I’m going for a Patty Austin jazz style.” I was only able to grant her request thanks to the invention of the internet and so, with me at the piano and she singing away in her veiled pill box hat and siren red nails, we pulled off a respectable run through. Soloist Two in her little black dress, her mane of beautiful blond hair and her multiple strands of pearls was quite a bit more comfortable in the lime-light and her run-through went off without a hitch.

bluecheese, walnuts, mushrooms
And so, the party went….greetings and laughter. Air kisses and warm embraces. Dim lights and sparkling rhinestones. Clicking glasses and trays of hors d’oeuvres. Coats being whisked up the staircase. A table full of delectable finger foods. Stuffed mushrooms at center stage.
We gathered in the living room before an enormous fireplace to “roast” the Birthday girl in her svelte black dress from the late 60’s, her peter pan collar of rhinestones and the gardenia tucked behind her ear. Friends and family from different decades of her life took the stage to regale us with stories about her and as they followed, one after the other, a theme took shape. A theme, which grew from the thought that the Birthday Girl was lying about her age. That there was no possible way she was 70. That she didn’t look a day past 50. Poems were recited. Letters were read. All debating the age of the Birthday Girl. At one point we all joined in on an original rap song which had us shouting out over and over, “…and she’s still hot! ….and she’s still hot! ….and she’s still hot” Every woman’s dream. I started pining away for my 70th Birthday Party.

prep stuffed mushrooms
The soloists were up next. A few gimlets too many, left the pill box beauty wordless but she hummed, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, beautifully. Soloist Two sang My Funny Valentine in a lovely, awe-inspiring vibrato and was completely free of inhibitions thanks, again, to the elegant little gimlet. Upon the conclusion of their songs, words were passed out and the sing-along began. One song after another….Oklahoma, Cabaret, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, Some Enchanted Evening, I Dreamed A Dream. And, not just the women. Rounding out the four part harmony, I could clearly detect the tenor and bass. And, as I played with the voices surrounding the piano, the light dancing off the walls, the genuine jubilation of the guests, I was grateful to have been included in this momentous occasion. The “back on fire” had been worth it. Of course, the late hour, the gimlets (again), the inability to resist over-dramatizing while singing songs such as Memory left my daughter wide-eyed with a half-smile as she innocently observed these “adults” enjoying the festivities.

lights on the windowpane
At some point, the lid to the keys was put down. Coats were passed out and guests disappeared into the clear, cold night. Shivering, we hopped into the car. My daughter’s eyes betrayed her sleepiness as we stole away across the river. And, I smiled to myself while I drove, secretly planning my Septuagenarian Birthday party.
Blue Cheese and Walnut Stuffed Mushrooms
Course: Appetizer
Serves: 24 stuffed mushrooms
I'm always thrilled when I find stuffed mushrooms on a party table. They are like an entire meal in an elegant bite-sized package. In the past, I've shied away from making them at home because I assumed they were messy and time consuming to put together- but not so. This recipe is incredibly easy and quick to make. If you're short on time you can skip brushing the mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper. The challenging part is keeping the mushrooms warm once you've made them, however, people will pop these scrumptious little bites in their mouths, hot or cold.
  • 24 medium-sized white button or cremini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup leeks, diced, white and light green parts only
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup unseasoned panko bread crumbs
  • ½ cup blue cheese crumbles
  • ¼ cup walnuts, roasted* and finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  1. Heat oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Melt butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add leeks, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper and sauté over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes or until softened and golden. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before mixing with other ingredients.
  3. Meanwhile, brush clean your mushrooms and remove caps. Save caps for a salad or sauté with eggs on the weekend. Brush your mushrooms with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place one inch apart on prepared baking sheet.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs, blue cheese, walnuts, and thyme. Stir in leek mixture until evenly distributed.
  5. Using a small teaspoon-sized spoon, generously fill each mushroom with the filling.
  6. Slide your baking sheet into upper third of your oven, and cook mushrooms for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bread crumbs are golden. Serve warm.
*To roast walnuts: Spread walnuts evenly on a baking sheet. Roast in preheated 350ºF oven for 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through.


  1. How wonderful, my dear friend, to read this beautiful story of my mom's party. This, we'll treasure as the memory of THE event fades a bit from our minds. So sorry about the burning back … I was feeling it for you! 🙂 So amazing to have shared it with you. xoxo!

  2. I found you! Not sure how… some link on Facebook or something? Certainly not from Miss Mara (ahem), who keeps swearing she'll send me the link! 🙂 I'm in love with your photos and your writing… I can't wait to read more. Alas, I stayed up too late ringing in '10 last night so more will have to wait until tomorrow. I just had to comment about the birthday bash though–how fun to read your take on it! Such a fun night–and so much inspiration for our own big bashes to come. Take care! ~Amber

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