Raw is a brilliant state for lettuce, for talent, for truth. Not so much for mushroom.
Uncooked, the mushroom is edible, but barely. It offers a spongy bite of bland. How the naked mushroom sneaked onto the salad plate – and why – remains a mystery.
Hunched and humble, the mushroom needs coaxing. Browned in butter, spiked with sherry and cradled in a crisp crust, it reveals its tangle of tastes: woodsy, wild and worth the wait.
Crisp tart pastry, recipe follows
1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 pound plain mushrooms, such as white button and cremini, cleaned, chopped
1/2 pound fancy mushrooms, such as oyster, shiitake and maitake, cleaned, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup sherry
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese
Truffle salt, if you have it
1. Roll: On a lightly floured surface, roll out chilled tart pastry to about 1/8-inch thin, and fit into an 8-by-10-inch rectangular (or 10-inch round) tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim edges. Prick with a fork. Line with foil. Freeze, 1 hour. (If you don’t have time to freeze thoroughly, line the foil with pie weights.)
2. Soak: Douse dried mushrooms with hot water. Let soak, 30 minutes. Drain, rinse and chop.
3. Brown: Heat oil and butter in a wide skillet over medium. Add shallots and cook, 2 minutes. Add both types of fresh mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until mushrooms turn soft and fragrant and many have browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme and rehydrated mushrooms; cook, 30 seconds. Turn up heat, pour in sherry and scrape up browned bits from the pan bottom. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool.
4. Mix: Whisk together yolks and cream in a large bowl. Stir in cheese and cooled mushrooms.
5. Bake: Set frozen tart shell on a rimmed baking sheet. Slide into a 400-degree oven and bake until shell begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool. Peel off foil. Scrape in mushroom filling. Bake until filling has set, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with truffle salt. Enjoy warm.
Crisp tart pastry: In the food processor, buzz together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup corn flour and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Drop in 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut up. Pulse until largest lumps are the size of peas. Pour in ice-cold water, 2 tablespoons at a time, and pulse until dough clumps. Pat pastry into a rectangle, wrap in waxed paper and chill, 1 hour.
Makes: 8 servings