By Cindy Valdez
I grew up in a small town up north. The closest grocery store was about 20 minutes away and any sort of decent shopping was at least a 30 -minute drive. But, in addition to a post office, a gas station, and a family owned pharmacy, our little town had the most incredible pizza place on the planet. Back then it was known as “Jimmy’s” but it’s changed hands a number of times since and, the last time I was there, it was a pizza place/gas station/bait tackle shop all in one.
Anyway, being that we lived in such a small town, going out to eat or ordering take-out of any kind was really a special treat that we only got to enjoy once a month, at most. Pizza night was a favorite for my brother and me, even though my mom always ordered pepperoni and mushrooms. I hated mushrooms. In fact, I’m not sure “hate” is a strong enough word to accurately describe my childhood feelings about mushrooms. But I loved Jimmy’s pizza so much that I happily (and carefully) removed every last slice of the brown, slimy fungi and pretended it was never there in the first place.
But then I grew up and, as is the case with so many things (e.g. black and white movies, coffee, early bedtimes), somewhere along the way, I learned to not only tolerate mushrooms, I learned to really enjoy and appreciate them. Stuffed mushrooms are incredible, aren’t they?!
This recipe from Capture the Coast pairs baby bella mushrooms (relatively mild in terms of shroominess) with goat cheese, making the dish not only palatable to even the most timid of mushroom-eaters, but truly delicious and even a bit decadent.
- 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms
- ¾ cups coarsely chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Salt to taste
- ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 refrigerator pie crust
- 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
- Leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
For the spread, rinse the mushrooms and pat dry. Trim the ends from the mushrooms and cut into quarters. Pulse the mushrooms and onions in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat; place the butter in the heated skillet. Add the mushroom mixture, salt and thyme when the butter stops sizzling. Sauté over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Reduce the heat to low. Sauté for 5 minutes longer or until most of the moisture has evaporated and the mixture forms a smooth paste. Spoon into a small bowl. Let stand until slightly cool. Add the lemon juice, mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce and mix well. The filing may be made 1 day in advance.
For the tart, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Remove the pie pastry from the refrigerator and let stand for about 15 minutes. Unroll the pie pastry onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Spread the mushroom filling evenly to within 1½ inches from the edge. Sprinkle with the cheese and thyme. Begin with one edge of the pastry and fold in towards the center, covering part of the mushroom filling. Work around the edge, pleating in about 2-inch sections as you go. When complete, there should be a 4-inch circle of the mushroom filling showing in the middle of the tart and about eight or nine pleats around the edge. Bake on the middle oven rack for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes longer or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 6 servings
I have to admit, while I was making this I wasn’t exactly drooling or anything; it doesn’t look very appetizing pre-baking.
But, after coming out of the oven and cooling just a bit, this dish looked and smelled dee-vine.
Now, the recipe calls for sprinkling fresh thyme leaves over the mushroom mixture pre-baking, but my grocer didn’t have any in stock and I didn’t have time to go to another store in search of it, so I omitted it from the recipe altogether. Next time I make this I’ll add it in to see what kind of taste difference it makes, but without it I don’t feel that the dish is missing anything.
As I’m sure you can imagine, the mushroom mixture has an earthy quality to it as far as taste is concerned. “Earthy” isn’t how I typically describe foods that I like. This is where the goat cheese came in for me, acting as a tasty detour as I reconsidered my appreciation for mushrooms. The pairing of cheese and mushrooms isn’t a new concept (e.g. the aforementioned stuffed mushrooms typically contain cheese), but it’s certainly a smart one and it’s done exceptionally well in this recipe.
The refrigerated pie dough, which flaked up quite nicely, made this dish super quick to throw together. If you have a few extra minutes and a round cookie cutter, you could easily make small, bite sized versions perfect for hors d’eurves (though you’ll probably want to adjust your baking time – keep a close eye on them the first time around so they don’t burn). This is ideal for a party, big or small, casual or elegant.
I should tell you that, while my husband and I, with our grown up palettes, have both enjoyed our fair shares of this dish, my kids haven’t touched this and probably have zero intention of even considering a bite. I’ll have to start them on mushrooms slowly; maybe I’ll start ordering mushrooms on our pizza…