(Written in 2004, this was my second Recipe!fic.)
Author's Note: This story takes place just before Frodo's twenty-second birthday (about the maturity of a 14-year-old human).
Disclaimer: Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to the Tolkien Estate. I own none of them. Some of them, however, seem to own me.
FRODO'S COOKING LESSON
Frodo came into the kitchen with a large basket, using his foot to close the door. "Look, Uncle Bilbo!"
Bilbo turned from the batch of scones he was preparing for teatime, and saw what Frodo so proudly displayed.
"I've been mushrooming, Uncle!" His blue eyes sparkled with enthusiasm, and his face glowed with the exertion of his run to the smial.
Bilbo quirked an eyebrow at him in inquiry. "Mushrooming, eh?" he asked.
Frodo flushed. "Don't be that way, Uncle Bilbo, that was a long, long time ago, when I was just a child! Today I was with Sam at the Cotton farm. Mistress Lily took us herself, and said I might have these!"
"Long ago?" Bilbo chuckled. "I daresay it seems so to you-but it was less than two years before you came to live here. I do not believe that either you or good Farmer Maggot will have forgot. And I apologize for any unfair suspicion. Come, let me see your bounty."
Frodo handed his cousin the basket, and the old hobbit inspected the mushrooms closely.
"Oh, my dear lad! These are beauties! I think perhaps you ought to stuff them."
"Me?" Frodo's voice, which had recently begun to settle into a mellifluous adult register, squeaked alarmingly.
"Certainly. After all, they are your mushrooms, given to you by Mrs. Cotton herself. You should have the honor of preparing them."
"But I don't know how to make stuffed mushrooms!" His voice broke again.
"Well then, my lad, I think it's time you learned, don't you?" asked Bilbo briskly.
Frodo nodded apprehensively.
"I think they will be lovely for supper, and Merry and his parents should be arriving in time for that, don't you think?"
"Yes, sir." But Frodo was not at all certain of this. What if he spoiled his beautiful mushrooms? And to serve them up to Uncle Sara and Aunt Esme? Merry would like them anyway, even if he burnt them to charcoal, but still-
"Now," said Bilbo briskly, "let us find the receipt." He went to the sideboard and took down a small flat box, and opening it, began to thumb through the papers inside. "Aha! Here we are, just the thing."
He handed it to Frodo, who looked comforted at seeing his task in the written word. Bilbo's distinctive hand had laid it all out for him. He looked up at his cousin with a question in his eyes.
Bilbo smiled at him reassuringly. "Just let me pop these scones in the oven, and I will sit here, and keep you company, and answer any questions you might have."
"What do I do first?"
"Well, if you mean to be a tidy cook, the first thing you do is to gather all your tools together. Look and see what you will need, and lay them out on the table here." He went over and put the pan of scones into the oven, and then sat down at the end of the table.
Frodo studied the instructions with growing confidence. It was not as though he had never cooked. He could make tea and toast, scrambled eggs, stew, and learned how to do a fry up when he was still at Brandy Hall, and Bilbo had taught him to bake scones nearly a year ago. But he had never cooked anything as special as mushrooms before.
Soon he had put out on the table a large baking sheet, the cutting board, one of Bilbo's sharp knives, two bowls, a spoon for stirring, and a small skillet. "Is there anything else I need, Uncle Bilbo."
"Yes, lad, you will need the grater, for the cheese and for the breadcrumbs. You may as well put the skillet on the stove to get hot, as well."
Frodo did as directed, and then asked "What now?"
"Now you assemble all your ingredients. It's good to make sure you have all of them ahead of time."
So Frodo re-read the paper, and then carefully gathered the green onions, garlic and celery, the butter, the salt and pepper, and the bowl that held the ends of stale bread that Bilbo used for cooking.
"Uncle Bilbo, what kind of cheese should I use?"
"Take some of that hard aged cheese we got from Michel Delving. It is just perfect for this dish."
Frodo's eyes grew wide. That was expensive cheese. Usually Bilbo simply grated a small bit on salads or such, as a garnish. He went into the larder and came out with the lump of cheese, in its cloth wrapping.
"Erm-it says I need to use some wine?"
"Ah, yes," said Bilbo, with a twinkle in his eye. He got up and went to the sideboard, and handed a bottle down to Frodo. "Here you go, my lad!"
"Bilbo! That's Old Winyards!"
"I know that, Frodo. You should always cook with wine that is good for drinking, and you can't find any that is as good as this!" He chuckled and took down two cups, pouring some into one, and just a little dash into the other. He handed the cup with only a dash to Frodo, and held his own up. "To mushrooms!" he said, and drained it down. He looked at his young ward. "Here now, lad, don't hesitate!"
So Frodo downed the small swallow in his own cup, and his eyes grew wide with his first taste of wine. "Oh my!" he said.
"Now, you see, you must always have a bit of the wine, when you make this dish, just to be sure that it is quite all right!" And he held his finger alongside his nose and gave a wink.
Bilbo sat once more in his chair at the end of the table, and watched his lad at work, so serious as he consulted the receipt, carefully following all the directions. Occasionally he answered question or gave a bit of advice, and Frodo felt confident under his watchful eye.
Soon enough, the baking sheet was filled with the mushroom caps, each one loaded with the delectable stuffing. Bilbo told him to cover them with a damp tea-towel, to await baking just before time for supper.
Saradoc sat back at the table, looking at the remains of the supper that had been set out when he, Esmeralda and Merry had arrived to spend a few days prior to Bilbo's and Frodo's birthday.
"That was an excellent meal, thank you, Bilbo! And I don't know when I have had such wonderful stuffed mushrooms!"
Frodo's face glowed with pride. "I made them, Uncle Sara!"
"Did you indeed? Well you did a marvelous job, my lad!"
"You didn't make enough!" piped Merry.
"Merry!" reproved his mother.
"Well, he didn't. I only got eight! I could have eaten a lot more of them!"
"I made as many as I had mushrooms for, sprout!" He reached over and ruffled his little cousin's head, and laughed in sheer delight.
Bilbo sat back and beamed. "Perhaps tomorrow you and Merry can get Sam to take you back to the Cotton's for more mushrooming!"
"Oh splendid!" crowed Merry. "Mushrooms every day!"
FRODO'S STUFFED MUSHROOMS
24 good sized mushrooms for stuffing
A stalk of celery
3 green onions
2 cloves of garlic
2 TBSP. butter or margarine
About 2 TBSP. of wine (or substitute broth or water)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup of dry bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
(optional) up to a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs
Clean the mushrooms carefully with a damp cloth or paper towel; remove the stems and set ½ of them aside. Chop the celery and onion, and mince the garlic. Chop ½ the mushroom stems coarsely.
In a skillet, melt the butter. Sauté the chopped mushroom stems, onion, celery and garlic until soft. Take care not to scorch the garlic. Add the wine, and let the vegetables simmer for a few moments.
Remove from skillet and put into a bowl. Add the bread crumbs, ½ of the cheese, seasoning and the egg. Stir together well. Stuff each cap with some of this stuffing mixture.
Just before baking, sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.
Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. Serve steaming hot.