Easy, posh, hors d’oeuvre-sized mushroom and goat cheese tartlets that melt in your mouth. Perfect for parties, potlucks, or as an appetiser. Can be assembled ahead of time and baked just before serving.
This is one of those dishes that makes me feel “not satisfied, but superior” every time I eat it. That brilliant phrase is Laurie Colwin’s, not mine. In her essay, Friday Night Supper (Home Cooking, 2000), Colwin says,
Food is now glamorous. Glossy magazines display tiny specks of underdone duck breast lying on oversized plates with the same reverence once lavished on models wearing Balenciaga dresses. This is the age of high-fashion food. Half a braised quail, a thimble of polenta and a sprig of cilantro are supposed to make you feel not satisfied but superior.
To my mind, this tartlet is the epitome of glamorous finger food. Each tartlet, although not bite-sized, is small enough to hold with two fingers and no plate, leaving the other hand free to hold a glass of wine. Each bite delivers a tantalising combination of creamy, meaty mushrooms and crispy layers of puff pastry that melt into nothingness leaving only a lingering memory of butter on your tongue.
This is one of those dishes that looks like it was difficult to make, but actually is quite easy to put together. It does require a bit of time, as caramelising onions and mushrooms cannot be rushed without compromising taste. Aside from the egg for the egg wash that I brushed the sides of each tartlet with — which I forgot to include in the photo and didn’t realise until it was too late to re-take the shot — and salt, the photo below contains all the ingredients that went into these tartlets.
The original French recipe calls for chanterelle, cèpe (porcini) and trumpet mushrooms. If I used wild mushrooms every time a recipe called for it, I’d probably need to sell drugs on the side to be able to afford them. So, I used a mixture of cremini and the humble white button mushrooms. Not one person I fed these to complained that the tartlets tasted pedestrian.
The most important thing while cooking the mushrooms is to cook them down until all the moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated and the mushrooms are glistening, but not dry. Don’t add salt when you add the mushrooms. Mushrooms have very high water-content. Adding salt at the beginning of cooking them makes mushrooms release all the moisture at once. While, in the end, we want the mushrooms to release their moisture and cook down, we also want them to caramelise first rather than steam. Caramelising the mushrooms provides depth and dimension — and makes up for not having used wild mushrooms to a large extent. Once, your mushrooms look the way you want them to, add salt to taste.
Remember to cool the cooked mushrooms until they are just warm to the touch before you lay them out onto the puff pasty. Hot mushrooms will melt the puff pastry and instead of airy layers of pastry, you will end up with a greasy film of dough. I thaw my puff pastry on the kitchen counter while the mushrooms are cooling.
You can of course add more goat cheese if you would like. I added less because I knew Keith would fuss if there he goat cheese in every bite. You could also use gruyère cheese instead of goat cheese if you prefer (or if you have some lying around in the fridge).
Of course, if you have mushrooms left after assembling the tarts, don’t throw them out. Those mushrooms are easy to repurpose. You can simmer it over some beef broth to make a mushroom ragout and serve it over polenta, or with pasta. Or, warm it up a little bit and spoon some over a meat patty for an upscale burger.
While I developed my own recipe in the end, I did use the caramelised onion, mushroom, and greyere cheese tartlets from Michelle’s recipe at Brown Eyed Baker as the point from which I started developing my recipe. You should check out her blog. Her cupcakes are amazing.
I am very generous with my filling. You can easily increase the white button mushrooms to 1 lb, use more cheese than I did, and decrease the amount of filling per tartlet to get 18 tartlets instead of 9. You will need another sheet of puff pastry if you plan to do this.
- For the Filling:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced into medium thickness
- ½ lb white button mushrooms, sliced into medium thickness
- 1 fat clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ cup red wine or beef stock
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- A few cracks of fresh black pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons goat cheese
- For the Tartlets:
- 1 sheet puff pastry
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
- parsley, chopped fine (to garnish)
- Thaw one sheet of puff pastry on your kitchen counter (or follow the directions on the package). Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, this will take 30-60 minutes.
- Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions should be partially caramelised.
- Once the puff pastry is thawed enough to open up, pop it into the fridge until you are ready. Using a sharp knife, cut the puff pastry into thirds along the folds, and then cut each third into thirds. You will have 9 pieces for 9 tartlets. Place onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper or silicone mat. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
- Add the butter to the pan. When the buffer melts and stops foaming, add the mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Turn the heat up to between medium and medium-high. Coat the mushrooms in the butter. Cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until all the moisture evaporates. Deglaze the pan with the wine (or stock) and cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Remove the pan from heat and allow it to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Crack the egg into a bowl. Beat in the milk until the slightly frothy to make an egg wash. Brush a bit of the egg wash along all four sides of each tartlet. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of filling into the middle. Try not to get any filling along the edges where you have brushed with the egg wash.
- Crumble a bit of goat cheese onto each tartlet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry puffs up and the exposed edges are golden. Sprinkle with the parsley to garnish. Serve hot.