Monday, August 31, 2009

Wild Mushroom Tarte

Disclaimer: if you are planning on going out and hunting wild mushrooms be careful. Don't pluck and munch if you're inexperiencd at mushroom identification. Bring a book with good illustrations/photos/descriptions etc. or better yet, take an expert along. We don't condone death on this blog.

When you're poor you sometimes have to go to great lengths to cost cut. In regards to food it may mean dumpster diving for fruit in the back of co-op food markets, or cutting out the moldy bits on bread and eating the remaining parts-- hey, every little bit helps. If you really want to be hardcore you learn about edible plants and fungi and turn to hunting and gathering the way people have always done. The Time Before Supermarkets. Historically, we haven't always had the luxury of indecision that we modern humans have wasted many a precious moment on -- trying to decide between Paul Newman's Spicy Italian vs. Vodka Sauce is a common time waster for me. Nope. There is life or death either by starvation or poisoning, but I digress. One of the best times to forage is after a rainfall. In particular, it is a perfect time for wild mushroom hunting as they are abundant. The area around Lake Pleasant in North Oaks is full of all sorts of plant life and different types of mushrooms so it's a great place to look. Bob Donsker lives nearby, a man of many talents, such as photography and cooking, he also happens to be particularly knowledgeble when it comes to identifying mushrooms. So much so that he and his family go hunting for morel mushrooms every spring -- but that is another food story. A couple days ago, Bob, Sue and Mayme Donsker decided they were feeling adventurous and started off around the lake in search of yummy things. They ended up finding lots of porcini mushrooms, but most were either a few days too old or if they were edible they were half eaten by animals-- good sign when in starvation mode, kids (although, Mayme points out that mushrooms are hardly a source of nutrition; they are more like sponges that soak up the flavors of different foods similar to tofu) Luckily, toward the end of their hike they happened across three large porcini. Notable characteristics: net-like veining on the stalk and the underside does not have gills, but it's quite spongy. The cap is reddish brown and resembles a bread roll. The British call this species penny buns while the french word is cepes and the Italians call it what is now most commonly referred to, porcini.

Much to the delight of her housemates, Mayme brought two mushrooms back to NE and got to work on making a Wild Mushroom Tarte. It turned out they weren't posionous -- wouldn't be writing you if they were -- one way to find out if it is a look-a-like imposter is to cut the mushroom in half and if it turns blue, don't eat it.
Cost restrictions created a few alterations in the recipe we got from we had a stub of gruyere and parmesan so both were used -- rule of thumb: two different types of cheese creates a more dimensional end result. Instead of brandy or cognac we used Martini & Rossi Rosso, which we still don't quite know what type of liquor it is other than it's brown and fantastic smelling. Mayme also decided to double the recipe for the dough to compensate for the number of people to feed. Since we didn't have the money to go out and buy phyllo dough we made it from scratch which is more labor intensive but worth it -- the ingredients are pretty cheap and staple, but the result is very special, authentic and buttery almost like a traditional french tarte Jon and Sinta completed the meal by creating an excellent rice pudding dressed up with lime zest as a dessert (will eventually post that recipe, too)

We ate outside at the picnic table which was decorated, smartly, with a phlox flower as a center piece (I thinks it looks like a swim cap because the flowers grow in a tight round cluster like a little bouquet or hat-- see previous entry 'day of magic' for photo) in darkness except for a few candles and the light of a waxing moon. While we drank wine and ate we started talking about how during the recession it is easy to feel depressed and defeated; you think the last thing you can have or deserve is the pleasure of a beautiful meal, but actually it is a perfect time to treat yourself, come together, pitch in whatever everyone can offer and as a result, lift the spirits, fill your tummy and hopefully make one more productive or at the very least, groovy. Also, it inspires cute little stories such as the one Mayme told about her two-year old niece, also named Mayme, riding in the car to Target in the evening with her Nanna Sue a few days prior.
Little Mayme says, "The moon is following us."
Nanna Sue replies, "Hm?"
"The Moon is chasing us."
Mayme realizes they are moving but the moon stays put.
The car turns around a bend. Mayme cannot see the moon anymore.
"Where is the moon?" she asks.
"At Target." replies Nanna Sue.

( laughter and applause )

Wild Mushroom Tarte

yield: Serves 6


  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons (about) ice water

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 10 ounces crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs
  • 2/3 cup grated Gruyère cheese
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg


For crust:
Blend flour and salt in processor. Cut in butter using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add enough water to blend dough. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic, chill 45 minutes.

Roll out dough on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Trim edges, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold overhang in to form double-thick sides. Press tart edges to raise dough 1/8 inch above pan. Chill 30 minutes.

For filling:
Bring 1 cup water to boil in saucepan. Add porcini; remove from heat and let stand 30 minutes. Spoon porcini from liquid; reserve liquid. Coarsely chop porcini.

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add porcini and crimini mushrooms. Season with salt; sauté until deep golden, about 10 minutes. Add shallots; sauté 2 minutes. Add Cognac and reserved porcini liquid, leaving any sand behind in saucepan. Boil until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Mix in 1 tablespoon herbs. Cool.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line crust with foil. Fill with dried beans; bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Sprinkle 1/3 cup cheese in crust. Cover with mushrooms. Whisk cream, yolks, egg and 1 tablespoon herbs in bowl. Pour custard over mushrooms. Top with remaining cheese. Bake until filling is set and top is golden, about 30 minutes. Cool on rack 15 minutes.


*We paired the meal with Davinci Chianti 2007. Mayme suggests when you cook a meal of a certain region you should try to pair a wine from that same region. Epicurious recommends: Beaujolais-Mommessin from France $14 , Patricia Green Cellars Pinot Noir Estate Ribbon Ridge 2006 from Oregan $25. Or if you're at the risk of overdrafting, you can pick up the "Two Buck Chuck" at Trader Joes.

We recommend: Nina Simone -- The Tomato Collection while preparing this meal. Also, accompany this music with lots of swaying, gyrating and bralessness.

--written by Michelle as told by Mayme

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