A Christmas Recipe with an Odd Name: Forcemeat

Does “forcemeat” sound appealing? If someone says you’re dining on forcemeat this Christmas, you may think you heard “horsemeat,” which is definitely a turn-off.

forcemeat-stuffed tomato The word first came into usage around 1680 (at least that we have record of). I have prepared it nearly that long…. Wait, no, I’m not that old!

I found the recipe for forcemeat-stuffed tomatoes in a Moosewood cookbook. Moosewood is a famous vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, NY, and so my recipe is without meat. I mistakenly thought that “forcemeat” came from “faux” meat as in “there is no meat here.” I knew the recipe came from a time when the majority of the populace in Great Britain had little access to a plentiful meat supply. So it made sense to me, and it became part of the story of this recipe.

However, after a little research, I found that forcemeat can indeed contain meat, finely chopped, and that the term “force” is a variant of “farce,” an old word for stuffing. Each Christmas, I’ve stuffed this fragrant concoction into both tomatoes and green peppers, using the beauty of their Christmas colors to visually enhance the dish.

This year, I made it for Thanksgiving using only tomatoes in order to convert a couple of naysayers who couldn’t believe it would taste good, not with the pairing of such ingredients as raisins and parsley. But it is delicious! And now they believe me. One guest said that it had a hint of the Moroccan about it.

Try this easy recipe for something a little different–a little medieval–and I truly hope you enjoy it this holiday season.

Forcemeat-Stuffed Tomatoes

forcemeat-stuffed tomatoes(I strongly suggest using fresh, not dried, herbs. You can substitute a quicker-cooking rice, such as flavorful basmati or jasmine, for the brown rice.)

6 large ripe fresh tomatoes

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup butter

6 ounces finely chopped mushrooms

5 leaves fresh sage, minced (or 1/2 tspn dried)

1/4 tspn minced fresh rosemary (or pinch of dried)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup cooked brown rice

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 tspn sweet Hungarian paprika

bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out the pulp. Chop the pulp and set aside.

Saute the onions in the butter for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute a minute more. Stir in the tomato pulp, sage, rosemary, parsley, and salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 5 minutes.

Add the rice, raisins, and paprika. Cook for a few more minutes, remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Stuff the tomatoes and mound and extra filling on top. Place in a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle the tops with bread crumbs. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

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