Friday, February 22, 2013

Lent Recipe #2: Mushroom Tart

So it seems like there is this misconception in pop culture that whatever you forgo or alter for Lent must make you miserable in order to be a true expression of piety -- almost as if we socially expect Catholics to desperately stand in the pouring rain outside of the local bakery and lustfully gape at the shelves of tantalizing, seductive cupcakes until Easter when the poor, starving soul can finally be rewarded with dessert.  And while I readily acknowledge that it is difficult to give up a worldly comfort for the sake of spirituality (and no, I will never give up sugar), I fully reject the connection of misery with the practice of abstinence. 

You see, at just about two weeks into Lent, I am feeling like my family isn't necessarily missing anything in our lives by eschewing restaurants.  Don't get me wrong, I've thoroughly screwed up dinner a couple times and the other nights certainly aren't five star quality, but I am finding the experience to be a worthwhile exercise of "plan B" -- which, admittedly, is something I am not very good at.  It seems to me that the value of Lent is in recognizing something tangible or excess that we place far too much value in and essentially resetting our lives in a bigger context.  By using the opportunity as a learning experience to better ourselves, we are attempting to find "... glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Romans 5: 3-4). 

By giving up restaurants and any form of prepared food, HB and I are without the convenience of just grabbing a bite wherever, but we're starting to recognizing the superfluous nature of going out.  We can make what we like at home and, frankly, the cost of only eating what can be purchased at the grocery store seems to be more time together... and I like those prices. 

So... the recipe for this week is for an awesome mushroom tart.  I originally got the recipe from Bon Appètit magazine, but I've been tweaking it over the years and I think I've finally found the combination of ingredients that I think is easiest, healthier and tastes better than the original (whatever you do, don't skip the Cognac or change the chesse!).  I typically make my own pastry crust, but for convenience sake I've listed a store bought crust to save you precious weeknight time:  

Single pie crust 
1 roughly chopped maitake mushroom (AKA "Hen of the Woods")
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 Tablespoons Cognac
2 Tablesppons chopped fresh rosemary and thyme
2/3 cup grated Gruyère cheese
3/4 cup milk
2 egg whites
1 whole egg 

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add chopped maitake mushrooms. Season with salt; sauté until deep golden, about ten minutes. Add shallots and sauté for two minutes. Add Cognac and boil until absorbed, about three minutes. Mix in 1 tablespoon of the herbs. Cool.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line crust with foil. Fill with dried beans; bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Sprinkle 1/3 cup cheese in crust. Cover with mushrooms. Whisk cream, yolks, egg and remaining herbs in bowl. Pour custard over mushrooms. Top with remaining cheese. Bake until filling is set and top is golden, about 30 minutes. Cool on rack 15 minutes and serve. 

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