My path to making a shiitake tart started with a walk in the North Carolina woods. It had rained and fungi had popped out. I wasn’t tempted to cook with them, but they were worth a look. Some were gorgeous and others just weird.
Toward the end of the stay, our friends took us to Deep Woods Mushrooms, where Greg Carter farms and forages for mushrooms that do belong in the kitchen.
Some of the foraged ‘shrooms looked as strange as those we’d seen in the woods. Indigo milk caps were new to me. Lion’s mane mushrooms were sweet and chewy, tasting a little like crabmeat. We also sampled thin raw slices of beefsteak mushrooms, known as “sushi of the woods.”
Among farmed mushrooms at Deep Woods, shiitake rule. “There are a blue million varieties, with different properties,” says Carter. “Some grow in the fall, others in spring.” His favored varieties grow outdoors (rather than in sheds used in large commercial operations), sprouting on logs positioned upright or in a tipi design.
An outdoor log can take more than two years to produce a fruiting body that results in mushrooms. Sometimes the logs can be stressed into picking up the pace–a whack with a sledge hammer might do the trick.
After eating mushroom pizzas from Carter’s wood-burning oven, we returned home with bags of dried shiitake and a sack of fresh ones. What to make? Pasta with mushroom sauce, risotto with mushrooms, polenta with sauteed mushrooms. All were considered. Morrison and David, our dear hosts, liked the idea of a tart so that’s what I made.
The dough for this tart is pasta frolla, made with a beaten egg as well as butter. It’s parbaked, which ensures a crisp crust when the filling is moist. I went heavy on mushrooms, using just enough egg and cheese to hold the filling together.
I’ve made this tart with all shiitakes and with a mixture including oysters and cremini. Both versions were excellent.
- 2 cups flour, plus more for rolling
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in pieces
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 pound mushrooms, such as shiitake, cremini or oyster
- 1 large shallot
- 2 ounces pancetta in a thick slice (optional)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup shredded sage leaves
- 1 cup Italian Fontina, raclette or gruyere cheese, grated
- 1/3 cup pecorino
Mix flour and salt in large bowl. Add butter and toss to coat with flour. Blend in butter with a pastry cutter (or, if you move quickly, your fingers). With a fork, moisten flour mixture with egg. Add cold water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture holds together.
Roll dough between two pieces of parchment paper to make a circle about 13 inches in diameter. Line a 10-inch tart pan and trim top edges with a knife. Fit parchment paper into shell and fill with weights (lightly oiled dry beans work well).
Preheat oven to 375F. Cook tart crust for 10 minutes. Cool slightly. Remove paper with weights. Cook 10 minutes longer until lightly colored. Cool.
Slice mushrooms, chop shallot, and cut pancetta (if using) in 1/8-inch dice. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Cook shallot and pancetta until golden. Scrape into a bowl.
Melt butter in same skillet. Saute mushrooms, stirring, until softened and lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in shallot and pancetta. Cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with cream. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
Spread mushroom mixture over pastry shell. Sprinkle with sage leaves. Pour egg-cream mixture over mushrooms and tilt to distribute evenly. Top with Fontina and pecorino. Bake until filling is just cooked and cheesy top is browned, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.