Meet the Contenders:
- Mushroom Lasagna
- Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting
(recipe from New York Times)
Cooking Time: 3 hours (45 of those minutes are just sitting and smelling the delicious melty cheese)
In three words: rich (ie. #opulent)
What we liked:
Cheese. Look at all the cheese!!! CHEESE!!!!! As two meat lovers, we knew any vegetarian dish was going to be hard-pressed to make us fall in love, but this did a pretty excellent job. We used a number of different mushroom types (cremini, portobello, shiitake, and oyster) and the combination of all the different cheeses (fontina, gruyere, parmesan and smoked mozzarella) resulted in a delightful intermingling of flavors that was unbeatable. The middle layer of the lasagna was just the smoked mozzarella which really stood out. We used farm-fresh, small-batch mozz straight from Vermont and it was beyond worth it. The smoky flavor added so much to the dish as a whole.
Beyond tasting amazing, this lasagna smelled heavenly. The addition of the truffle oil to the mushroom mixture not only tasted good, but the earthy smell of the truffles took over the entire kitchen and we were sure glad it did. As the lasagna baked, it got better and better, making us more and more excited to actually dig in.
What we didn’t: Time and intensiveness of preparation–lots of slicing, dicing, grating, and sauteeing. We ended up grating 4 blocks of cheese total (that’s a lot of grating) and slicing a pound and a half of mushrooms (that’s a lot of slicing). Not to mention the shallots. The recipe called for 6 large shallots which had to be peeled (annoying) and minced. By the end, our eyes were killing us from the shallot-sting that we somehow couldn’t escape. And, let’s be honest, we love meat and this dish was lacking (although it was so delicious that we can’t really take off any points for that).
The Whoopie Pies
(recipe from Doubly Happy)
Cooking Time: 1.5 hours
In three words: Use more bourbon.
What we liked:
Wow. This was a spur of the moment dessert decision and it turned out wayyy better than we could have imagined. We’d toyed with the idea of making whoopee pies when we saw a whoopee pie baking tray at williams-sonoma. Though we didn’t purchase it, it got us thinking about the delicious little cookie cakes and we knew we had to try it. These were delicious. We were turned on to this recipe by the words “mini” and “bourbon” which are both always delightful, especially in cooking. As whoopie pie newbies, we weren’t sure how big they are normally, but by most standards, these don’t seem “mini.” At least two inches in diameter and almost the same in height, these little monsters were rich and gooey and delicious, but maybe not as mini as we’d imagined.
As our kitchen creativity took hold, we added half a tablespoon of allspice to the pumpkin mixture (a fabulous idea) and about two extra tablespoons of bourbon to the icing (also an excellent idea). I don’t think we’d change anything flavor-wise about the cookies if we were to make these again, but the bourbon flavor of the icing was completely dominated when it was inside the cookie cakes, so it definitely couldn’t hurt to add even more.
What we didn’t:
These are some moist little cookie cakes. Once assembled, we let them chill a bit before serving, but even though they were fully cooked, they were so dense and sticky that it would have been off-putting if they weren’t so damn delicious. In the end, it almost made them taste better, but perhaps a few more minutes in the oven or a little less oil would have helped firm them up a bit more.
Savory 16: Mushroom Lasagna vs. Shrimp and Truffle Risotto with Seared Scallops
The lasagna, amazing as it was, required way more prep and cooking time than the simple risotto. Both were, in our eyes, equally creamy, cheesy, and delicious, but the risotto is taking this one just because it was so, so easy. This one was a stiff competition, and it all came down to the simplicity factor. Either way, you should definitely try both recipes because they are amazing.
Sweet 16: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting vs. Apple Pie Phyllo Rolls
Winner: Whoopie Pies
The whoopie pies beat our little phyllo rolls in almost every way–ease of preparation (ugh… phyllo) and seasonal appropriateness (perhaps this was our bad) being chief among them. That said, the bourbon butterscotch sauce on the apple pies could definitely beat the bourbon cream cheese icing (but that’s probably because the icing didn’t taste very bourbon-y at all and needed something to cut through the sweetness).