Menu Description: "Jumbo mushroom caps filled with herb and garlic cheese, lightly battered and fried. Served with zesty horseradish and mustard dip made with Grey Poupon."
In a March 1986 story which ran in the Kansas City Times, a feud erupted between Gilbert/Robinson, the parent company of Houlihan's restaurant at the time, and two guys building their own chain of bars called Mike Houlihan's. The president of the Houlihan's chain, Fred Hipp, said that at first Houlihan's didn't mind so much, asking kindly that the name not be used. But when Mike Heyer and John Houlihan opened a Mike Houlihan's in St. Louis only a few blocks away from an original Houlihan's restaurant, Fred saw no choice but to sue. Soon, residents with the surname were writing to Fred urging him to drop the lawsuit. "You'll feel better, thirteen hundred Houlihans will beel better, and two Irishmen will have $50,000 to buy more Irish whiskey," said one letter.
Here's another Houlihan's classic recipe called "Shrooms"—cheese-filled, batter-fried mushrooms served piping hot. You have the choice of making the herb-flavored cheese filling with my recipe here, or if you're feeling especially lazy, you can buy a similar premade filling. Be careful when you first bite into these dudes. Straight out of the fryer, the hot cheese filling is like molten lava on your tongue and lips. Consume with care.
Herb Cheese Filling
- 1/8 teaspoon dried summer savory
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Pinch dried parsley flakes
- Pinch dried tarragon
- Pinch ground pepper
- 1/3 cup whipped cream cheese
- 6 to 8 large button mushrooms
- 1 cup unbleached flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup milk
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons Grey Poupon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1. Combine the savory, garlic powder, 1/8 teaspoon salt, parsley, tarragon, and pepper in a small bowl and use your fingers or the back of a spoon to crush the spices into much smaller pieces. If you have a mortar and pestle, use that. Just be sure you don't pulverize the spices into dust.
2. Combine the spice mixture with the cream cheese and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes or longer so that the dried herbs have time to rehydrate and flavor the cheese.
3. Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems, leaving only the caps.
4. When the cheese has rested, use a teaspoon the fill the mushroom caps with the herb cheese.
5. Combine the flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the cayenne pepper in a small bowl.
6. Pour the milk into another small bowl.
7. Dip each mushroom first in the milk then into the flour mixture. Do this twice for each mushroom so that each one has been double-coated with flour.
8. Put the coated mushrooms into the freezer for at least 3 hours. This will keep the coating from falling off, and it will keep the cheese inside from expanding too fast and leaking out of the mushroom when frying.
9. Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Keep the sauce covered and chilled until you are ready to serve it.
10. When the mushrooms are frozen, heat the oil in a deep fryer, Dutch oven or large saucepan to 350 degrees F. Use enough hot oil to completely cover the mushrooms (at least a couple inches deep). Fry the mushrooms for 8 to 10 minutes or until the outside turns golden brown. Drain the mushrooms on a rack or paper towels. Let the mushrooms sit for a couple minutes before serving—they will be very hot inside. Serve with dipping sauce on the side.
Serves 2 to 3 as an appetizer.
Tidbits: If you're feeling lazy, rather than make your own cheese filling, you can purchase one of the 4-ounce preblended herb cheeses made by Rondele or Alouette. They're usually found near the cream cheese in the supermarket.
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