My fellow American and just general all-round lovely lady, Caroline, recently welcomed a second child to her family here in London. And while diaper genies and swaddling blankets and stuffed toys remain all the rage, the gift I always give a new mom is a home cooked meal prepared and delivered by me. I think the gift of food, ready for reheating, is a special treat for a new mom or someone coming home from the hospital or just back from a long journey. Plus, I get to have a good snuggle with an adorable little baby and have a good catch up with a friend over lunch. Admittedly, I cringe when I’ve watched Ina Garten prepare welcome-home baskets for her various friends who are returning from some arduous exotic vacation abroad, but maybe I’m just a little jealous that no one has ever filled my fridge with breakfast essentials and a lasagna to pop in the oven just as I’m getting back from weeks on the road. Nothing makes me feel more uneasy in my home than an empty fridge!
With so many cookbooks, I find myself going on binges, cooking heavily from first one and then the next, making notes of what to revisit. However ever since I got The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, over a year ago, it’s been firmly planted on my kitchen counter for extra-easy access. All of Deb Perelman’s recipes have been delicious, well-tested and headed by well-written blurbs giving us all a little snapshot of her life as a mom, wife, New Yorker, and cook. When I started contemplating what to take to Caroline I started with Deb’s wild mushroom tart (which I’ve prepared numerous times for a variety of events) and then just flipped through the pages until something else caught my eye. While a lovely green salad is perfect with the tart, it’s not very hearty, and I wanted to make something that could sit in the fridge and be pulled out as needed. This slaw, with its hits of dried cranberries and red onion and almond is better the longer it sits in its dressing in the fridge. It’s healthy. It’s delicious.
Once upon a time, rice crispy treats were to hipster New Yorkers what the cronut is today. I remember those days, the first dessert/sweet fad that I can recall, and I bought buttery squares as big as my head and drank them with coffee while I was going to graduate school. And while I don’t indulge myself anymore, I couldn’t resist the idea of this slightly salty, nutty version. Finding marshmallows in this country is a bit of a trial and my final treats are pink because I could only find pink marshmallows (after much hunting)….but the effort was worth it because these come together in a snap and are as delicious as I remember them.
For the crust:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup yellow cornmeal
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 large egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
½ pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms (such as shiitake or oyster), torn into small pieces
1 teaspoon salt, divided
freshly ground pepper, to taste
¼ cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
¼ cup milk
2 large eggs
½ cup freshly grated gruyere cheese
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
To make the crust – add the flour, cornmeal and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Add in the butter. Pulse until the butter is the size of tiny peas. Add the egg and process until the dough starts to clump together (it will look like wet sand). Dump the dough onto a floured surface and use your hands to bring it together. Roll out the dough to a 12-inch circle (rolling out the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap made this very easy). Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan and press the dough against the bottom and sides. Remove the excess dough from the top. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and put in the freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter one side of a piece of aluminum foil. Press the foil firmly against the bottom and sides of the crust (butter side down). Bake for 10 minutes (no pie weights needed). Carefully remove the foil and then bake for another 5 to 8 minutes, until lightly golden brown around the edges. Place on a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
To make the filling – set a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. When the butter is melted, add the shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 to 3 minutes, until soft. Add in the garlic and thyme and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Increase the heat to medium high and add in the mushrooms (if the mushrooms won’t all fit in your skillet, add as many as you can and as they cook down you’ll be able to add more to the pan). Cook for about 9 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid has evaporated. Stir in ½ teaspoon salt and pepper (to taste). Transfer to a plate to cool.
In a medium bowl, add the mascarpone. Slowly pour in the milk and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the eggs. Add in the gruyere, parmesan and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Add in the cooled mushrooms and mix to combine. Carefully pour the mixture into the tart shell. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until slightly puffed and lightly golden brown on the top (if you insert the tip of a small knife into the center, it should not release any wet custard). Let the tart cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan to serve. Serve warm or at room temperature.