Mushrooms in Pastry, revisited

It’s funny how some medieval dishes are interpreted automatically with modern American food assumptions. Mushrooms in pastry from Le Menagier are a perfect example. Every time I’ve had this dish at a feast, it’s been a mushroom quiche, with eggs and cream and maybe a little cheese sprinkled on top. I think I’ve even made it myself this way for a feast once. You read “mushrooms in pastry with cheese” and automatically picture “quiche”.

However, the actual description never mentions eggs or cream at all!

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.

Note that the method of cooking before putting the mushrooms into the pastry is boiling, not sauteeing or frying. There are no eggs or cream here, thus no custard base, thus no quiche. Since the pastry cases at this point were still hard cases, coffyns, barely edible, what you’re eating is the filling, not the pastry case. Functionally there is no difference between whether you put them in a pastry case to be baked in a hot oven or between two dishes to be roasted over coals… the filling is going to come out pretty much the same.

For St. George’s I’m meeting modern expectations halfway. I’m using a literal translation of the filling but with an edible, relatively tender crust. I’m also making them in single-serving size, which is a bit more fussy but will look much nicer for presentation. I’m also fudging the choice of mushrooms. I’m using regular ol’ white button mushrooms because they’re cheapest by far, even though they are definitely not “red inside and closed above”. There is a list of medieval German recipes here that are for specific types of mushrooms. You can see that the Germans at least ate many, many types of mushrooms. If this recipe is actually calling for truffles, for example, it would produce a radically different dish. However, white button mushrooms are what I can afford, therefore that’s what we’re making it with. They also do not need to be peeled as per the instructions, thank goodness.

As for “spices”, the thought of cinnamon or cloves with mushrooms is just not appealing. I used a great deal of pepper and a tiny pinch of dried ginger, which is unexpectedly delicious.

Recipe for 12 mini-Mushrooms in Pastry

Single-crust pastry recipe (I used an all-butter pate brisee)
1 lb white button mushrooms
olive oil
salt, pepper, pinch of dried powdered ginger
1/4 lb white cheddar cheese, grated (this is probably supposed to be Crampone, which is supposed to be similar to modern Gruyere, but white cheddar is half the price. If I can afford Gruyere for the actual feast I’ll use that instead)

Roll out pastry and cut 12 4″ circles. Fit circles into a muffin tin. Put in the fridge to chill.

Boil a large pot of water. Slice the mushrooms thickly. Put into the boiling water with a good dash of salt and boil until the mushrooms are softened, 5 minutes or so. Drain the mushrooms in a colander and then put them on a towel to dry a bit more. Take the pastry-lined muffin tin out of the fridge and divide the mushrooms evenly among the 12 tarts. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and ginger and then mound about a tablespoon or two of grated cheese on top of each one. Bake in a 350 oven for about 20 minutes until nicely browned.

These were surprisingly good and easy to make. I look forward to serving them at St. Georges!

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