Chicken & Watercress – Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll remember that I wrote about feeling like I was Drowning in Recipes. The truth is, not only do I have my mother’s scraps of papers to sort through, I also have my own.

Perhaps the almost compulsive need to skim through cookbooks and magazines comes from a lifetime of watching my mother do it. I remember stacks of cooking magazines around the house growing up. I remember piles of cookbooks that my mother had borrowed from the library. More recently, I remember the mountains of cookbooks in my mother’s bedroom.

Whenever I came into town to visit, I looked forward to crawling into my mom’s bed to lie down next to her. In some ways, it made me feel like I was a kid again. Except now, Mom wasn’t reading me stories…we were reading recipes together. I’d always grab a cookbook from the collection in her room and bring it into bed with me. Sometimes, if I really liked a recipe, I’d write it down on a scrap piece of paper to take home. There were a couple of times when I think Mom realized that I really liked the cookbook I was reading…those times, she told me to take the book home and keep it.

I have my own collection of cookbooks here. I also have stacks of magazine pages I’ve saved, filled with recipes that have piqued my interest in some way. As I’ve been sorting through Mom’s recipe collection, I have come to the sobering realization that she never made many of the recipes she saved. Am I destined to do the same thing? Not if I can help it.

This weekend, I decided to go through a stack of magazine pages I had squirreled away on a bookshelf. Using those as inspiration, I created a meal plan for this week.

Tonight’s dinner was adapted from a recipe I saved from the September 2012 issue of Rachael Ray Magazine.

For my version, I used ground chicken instead of ground beef (hubby is watching is cholesterol and it was on sale!). I used grated Parmesan cheese instead of the pecorino-romano because we already had some. I also substituted thinly sliced provolone for the shredded provolone because my grocery store didn’t have it.

These. Were. Delicious.


I couldn’t get all of the filling to stay on top of the mushrooms, maybe that had something to do with me swapping out the pecorino-romano? Or, maybe I needed deeper wells in the mushrooms. What this dish might lack in presentation – it more than makes up for in flavor.

I will happily make this again.



Chicken & Watercress – Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms


  • 4 large portobello mushroom caps, gills scraped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pound ground chicken, at room temperature
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, chopped *I used 3 -4 large cloves
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano *I used oregano
  • 1 cup packed watercress, chopped
  • 1/2- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino-romano *I used Parmesan 
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded provolone *I used thin slices


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, brush the mushrooms with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper; situate them rounded side up. Roast until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken dry and add to the skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, Worcestershire and oregano. Cook until the onion and garlic are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the watercress to wilt. Stir in the panko. Remove the pan from the heat; stir in the Parmesan.

Flip the mushroom caps over so they’re rounded side down and fill with the meat mixture, mounding a quarter of the chicken into each cap. Top with the provolone and return to the oven to melt the cheese, 7 to 8 minutes.


Picnic Chicken

Today marks three months since mom died. I hate that phrase, “mom died.” I don’t like “passed away” any better. I’ve found it also really catches people off guard when they ask “What’s new?” and I respond with “My Mom died.” These are casual acquaintances – we’re not friends on Facebook, so unless someone else happened to tell them, they’d have no way of knowing what I’ve been going through since January. I’m trying to take things one day at a time and I’m trying to get back to my life. My real life. The one with an unbelievably understanding husband and an amazing little boy.

A life that includes a job I enjoy and colleagues I consider friends.

I was reminded of that today when I spent most of the day with a dear friend I met at work. Come to think of it, I’ve met some of my closest friends (here in PA) at work. Even though she no longer works at the College, we’ve stayed in touch – even when she lived across the country. Now that she’s back…and lives less than 10 minutes from my house, I’m hoping we can see each other more frequently. We went to a “garage” sale hosted by a local church and then to a library’s used book sale. She shares my love of “treasure hunting”- something I inherited from Mom. One weekend when Mom was visiting, we all went to a large flea market together. On a separate occasion, I took Mom to a library book sale and we happened to see this same friend. Perhaps that’s how this friend knew that these events would be welcome distractions for me today.

We spent most of the day talking (I did some crying), hunting for treasures, and digging through boxes of books. It was perfect and I loved it.

I happened to bring up the topic of Mom’s recipes and cookbooks and we started talking about meal planning. I need to get back into the habit of meal planning, something I never seemed master despite the fact that I do enjoy cooking. My friend tends to cook her way through cookbooks, frequently trying new recipes. She keeps a record (in a paper journal) of those she tries, notes which are fabulous and which are flops. I’m thinking of doing something similar thanks to her inspiration.

The inspiration for tonight’s recipe comes from my day spent with her. I picked up one of Mom’s cookbooks and flipped through until I found something that sounded good and easy. It was already after 4p.m. when I started thinking about dinner, so I wanted to find something that didn’t need a lot of ingredients.

Hubby did the cooking for this one, I made some minor adaptations to the recipe.

The mustard was delicious. If you like dill, I highly recommend.

Picnic Chicken

1/2 cup mustard *the original recipe called for Dijon, I used a Dill Mustard we had in the pantry. It sounded good and I love dill.

1 clove garlic, mashed

1/2 tsp dried dill (original recipe called for thyme)

1 cup panko

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 tsp paprika

2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (split into 4 pieces)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Mix the mustard, garlic and dill together in a bowl. In a separate shallow dish, mix the bread crumbs, cheese, and paprika. Coat a piece of the chicken with the mustard mixture, and then place the chicken in the breadcrumb mixture. Turn to fully coat the chicken with crumbs on all sides. Repeat with all of the chicken pieces.

3. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until they are golden brown, crispy, and cooked through, 50-55 minutes, depending on size.

4. Serve chicken hot, or let it cool and take it on a picnic (hence the name).

-Adapted from The Crabby Cook Cookbook by Jessica Harper