Anatomy Lesson: Rustic Mushroom Tart

“Nature alone is antique and the oldest art a mushroom.”
Thomas Carlyle

[Note: This post forms part of the Picnic Game, sponsored by Louise over at Months of Edible Celebrations. For more recipes and the bloggers/sites that participated, see below!]

Ah, mushrooms.

Either you love them or you hate them. Maybe you act indifferently toward them. But if you do, most likely you don’t really like them.

Or maybe, just maybe, you’re afraid of them.

You wouldn’t be the first person to look askance at mushrooms.

In France, one of the earliest mentions of mushrooms in cooking occurred in Le Regime du Corps, written in the thirteenth century by Aldobrandino da Siena (Aldebrandin de Sienne). Aldobrandino frankly slanders mushrooms:

Mushrooms are of various sorts, and you should know that they are cold and moist in the third degree; some are even cold in the fourth degree, and those are the ones that make people suddenly die.

Know that, according to what doctors of physic say, others are not so bad, although they are to be regarded with suspicion given the dangers they they pose due to vicious fumes that issue naturally from the earth.

And as late as the nineteenth century, gastronome Alexandre Dumas said, “I confess, that nothing frightens me more than the appearance of mushrooms on the table, especially in a small provincial town.”

Who wouldn’t be concerned?

Fortunately, the mushrooms you’ll find in your supermarket today do not spring to life overnight under a tall oak tree, nestled in loamy soil saturated with spring rain or morning dew. No, unless you shop at a farmers’ market, you’ll likely just encounter cultivated mushrooms wherever you shop.

You can rest assured that not a single Amanita phalloides poisons the bunch.

Mushroom Tart

The author of Le Ménagier de Paris (late 1300s) included a recipe for mushroom tart in his manuscript cookbook, meant to guide his fifteen-year-old wife in her kitchen duties.*

The following tart recipe comes from my imagination, but nevertheless I build on the pots and pans of giants.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

1 1/2 pounds assorted sliced  mushrooms [reconstituted porcini, cut into strips;  fresh shiitake; fresh cremini (baby bellas); and fresh white (button or champignons de Paris) mushrooms]

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Cook each of the mushroom types in enough oil so they brown. Be sure not to move the mushrooms around in the pan while they cook; just let them get nice and browned on each side.

Drain on paper towels and when well drained, place mushrooms in a large stainless steel or glass bowl.

Repeat until all mushrooms are cooked. Add a couple of tablespoons of oil to the skillet and cook the onion until almost browned and translucent. Sir in the garlic, cook for 30 seconds, and then add all the mushrooms.

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Stir in 1/2 cup dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio, and let it cook until all the liquid evaporates. Stir in 1 t. sugar and 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream.

Push down10 sprigs fresh thyme (knotted together with butcher’s twine) into the cream and let cream cook down until very thick. Season to taste with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.

Roll out your favorite pie pastry and place on a baking sheet on parchment paper.

Spread 4 ounces smoked Gruyère, grated, over the dough, leaving about 2 inches around the edges for folding over later. Remove the fresh thyme and sprinkle the mushrooms with about 1/2 t. dried thyme leaves. Top the smoked Gruyère with the mushrooms.

Sprinkle 4 ounces plain Gruyère cheese, grated, over the top of the mushrooms. Fold and pleat the edge of the dough over the mushrooms.

Bake tart approximately 30 minutes. Cheese will darken. Let tart cool on rack briefly. Sprinkle 2 T. minced fresh parsley over the tart and serve.

Enjoy! The tart keeps well over night and can be reheated lightly in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

*Champignons d’une nuit sont les meilleurs, et sont petits et vermeils dedans, clos dessus: et les convient peler, puis laver en eaue chaude et pourboulir; qui en veult mettre en pasté, si y mette de l’uille, du frommage et de la pouldre.

Item, mettez-les entre deux plats sur charbons, et mettez un petit de sel, du frommage et de la pouldre. L’en les treuve en la fin de May et en Juin.

Translation, by Janet Hinson:

Mushrooms of one night are the best, and are small and red inside, closed above: and they should be peeled, then wash in hot water and parboil; if you wish to put them in pastry, add oil, cheese and powdered spices.

Item, put them between two dishes over the coals, and add a little salt, cheese and powdered spices. You can find them at the end of May and in June.

MORE PICNIC FOOD AT Months of Edible Celebrations:

The rest of the picnic food is delicious, too …

I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing…

A- Almond Joy Pie (Marjie) @ Modern Day Ozzie & Harriet

B- Baked Beans (Kasha) @ Grub and Stuff

C-Chocolate Picnic Cake (Janet) @ Dying for Chocolate

D-Dutch Funnel Cake  (Julie) @  Sporadic Cook

E-Easy Blender Chicken Pie (Juliana) @ Simple Recipes

F-Five Bean Salad-(Barbara) @ Moveable Feasts

G-Granola Bars (Stephanie) @ Fun Foods on a Budget

H-Herb and Cheese Pasta Salad  (Reeni) @ Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice

I-Incredibly Fruity Raspberry Cakes (Tessa)  @ Raspberry & Chipotle

J-Jeweled Picnic Bars (Rochelle) @ Rochelle’s Vintage & Frugal Recipes

K-Kaltschale (Cold Fruit Soup) Petra @ Kaffeeklatsch

L-Long Island Lemonade Cocktail (T.W.) @ Culinary Types

and of course the mushroom tart!

© 2010 C. Bertelsen

14 thoughts on “Anatomy Lesson: Rustic Mushroom Tart

  1. Hi Cynthia,
    I just wanted to take a moment to “personally” thank you for “bringing” your Mushroom Tart to the picnic. It was a flavorful hit enjoyed by all:) Thanks again for playing, Louise

  2. Mae,

    It’s so hot here that if it hadn’t been for the AC, I would have made something else! So sorry you’re not “bringing” anything to the virtual picnic, because I know you can cook like a whiz, just as you review books like a whiz.

  3. Looking forward to seeing what everybody is “bringing,” Louise. The tart went over really well at a dinner party the other night, so I think it will work well for a picnic, too.

  4. that looks absolutely divine and not at all to be feared. I love all the mushroom info just to make me long to eat them – as if I need any encouragement with this pie

  5. Lovely idea for a picnic — the history is a great bonus, for Louise’s game. I regret that I didn’t have the energy to think up a contribution to her party.


  6. Personally, I love them! And, that Mushroom Tart looks like it is just waiting for me to take a nibble.

    Thank you so much for sharing, Cynthia. Your letters are on the way!!!

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