Shrimp Rockefeller (for the Rest of Us)

What’s so special about this “Rockefeller?” Well, you won’t go into hock buying oysters. You won’t cut your thumb off shucking said oysters. You won’t even go to jail for cannibalizism for eating a Rockefeller. You will have change in your pocket, your thumb firmly attached to your hand, and any living Rockefellers will still be in their living state.

Which is the most notable difference is a matter for debate. We’ll use shrimp instead of oysters, and portabellas instead of oyster shells. Now you see where “edible” fits into all of this. The only inedible thing in this dish are the spinach stems. Fresh spinach, not baby spinach, resembles many of the cooking greens loved by those of us who eat such things. Like all greens, they have a drawback: a tough, woody, fibrous stem. Much like the “strings” in celery ribs, they don’t soften during normal cooking times. Our spinach is no different. Part of washing our spinach entails removing the stem. Simply fold the spinach leaf over with the top of the leaf to the inside, grasp the stem with the opposite hand, and pull the stem toward the top of the leaf. The stem and all the fibrous inedibles easily pulls away from the leaves. With a bit of practice, a 10 ounce bag of fresh spinach can be cleaned and destemmed in less than 10 minutes: a task that will be appreciated by everyone who eats these hors d’oeuvres.

The foundation of these creations is equally important. We’ll be using a medium-sized portabella to hold our toppings. Like their oversized compadrés, medium portabellas are sold packed on a Styrofoam tray, usually 6 or 8 to a package. They should be roughly three inches in diameter, but no more than four. Their stems are cut short, but those need to be removed entirely along with the gills. Those can either be scraped out with a spoon or your thumbnail. Using your nail as opposed to a piece of flatware allows you to feel just how much you are removing and if you are scraping the sides too aggressively. Because the sides we need. They hold the toppings aplenty in place.

There’s a bit of an old wives’ tale floating around about rinsing mushrooms with water. “Mushrooms are sponges and will soak up any water that gets on them. Clean your mushrooms with a soft brush and no water.” And others. Who knows where it started, but it’s simply not true. You can safely scrape out the gills under running cold water with impunity. Just be sure to allow the cleaned mushrooms to dry for a few minutes before you use them further.

And with that bit of advice and misconception clarification, let’s get down to the business of making these tasty treats.

Shrimp Rockefeller

  • 12 medium portabellas
  • 2 pounds raw shrimp
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 ozs cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach, cleaned, destemmed, blanched and chopped
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • olive oil 

Wash and destem the fresh spinach. Blanch the spinach for 2 minutes, press out the water and chop. Set this aside. Preheat oven to 425°F. Stem and scrape the gills of the portabellas. After they have dried a few minutes, place them stem side up on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Sprinkle the mushrooms with kosher salt. Roast the mushrooms for 10 minutes. Turn them over and roast for an additional 5 minutes. The caps will have liquid pooled in them. This is not from rinsing, but because mushrooms have a good bit of water in them already. Remove the mushrooms from the oven and transfer them, stem side down to a tray covered with paper towels to absorb the liquids released during the roasting process. Leave the oven on.

Meanwhile make the filling. Mix the softened cream cheese, mayonnaise, 3 tbsp parmesan cheese, milk, lemon juice, worcestershire sauce, spinach, nutmeg, cayenne and salt in a mixing bowl. Set this aside.

Prepare the shrimp by peeling, deveining and coarsely chopping them. Toss with a teaspoon of kosher salt and half a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. Set these aside.

Toss together the bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese and a tablespoon or two of olive oil. If the mixture seems too dry, you can add another tablespoon. Set this aside.

Sautée the shrimp in olive oil in a very hot frying pan for two minutes, turning to cook evenly.

Transfer the mushrooms, stem side up, to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Layer each mushroom with shrimp, a generous dollop of the spinach cheese mixture and a generous topping of the bread crumb mixture.

Return the filled mushrooms to the oven to bake for an additional 8 minutes. Serve immediately, either cut in half or left whole.