Asparagus and Mushroom Tarts
As a host, there’s nothing quite so valuable as the effortless dish that can be conjured up in response to last-minute vegetarian dinner party RSVPs. Though the easygoing couple, early evening add-ins to our Friday soiree, would have quite cheerfully grazed on available greens, I was loath to consign one-quarter of my guests to stuffed tomatoes and Caesar salad.
Happily, my chaotic kitchen unearthed puff pastry, parmesan and a copy of this month’s Bon Appetit, which featured asparagus and mushroom tarts. A quick trip to the corner store turned up asparagus and crème fraiche, and my windowsill fresh thyme.
Even better, the tart topping can be mixed in advance. A few stir fried mushrooms, tossed with asparagus, lemon zest, grated cheese and crème fraiche, will merrily relax in the fridge while you chop frantically and wonder aloud if it was really necessary to prepare six different dishes on a weeknight.
They stay composed even when you follow the recipe’s cooking times against your better judgment (25 minutes for puff pastry? Really, Bon Appetit?), and emerge from the smoky oven relatively unscathed. In fact, the shorter baking time lends the asparagus a lovely springtime crunch atop the creamy mushroom filling.
With the help of prosecco and several soux chefs (unsuspecting early arrivals), the other five dishes also magically assembled themselves and whisked themselves to my new dining room table, where commenced the happiest of weekend rituals, sharing good food with good friends.
Asparagus and Mushroom Tarts
From Bon Appetit
1 17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
12 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced (I used baby portobellos)
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, divided
1 pound slender asparagus spears, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1/2 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (I used parmesan)
Fresh thyme sprigs (for garnish)
Roll out each pastry sheet on work surface to 10-inch square. Cut each into 4 squares. Using small knife, lightly score 1/2-inch border (do not cut through pastry or the juices will escape and smoke up your kitchen – see above) around inside edges of each square. Arrange squares on 2 rimmed baking sheets. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)
Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sauté until tender and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Drain off juices. Transfer mushrooms to large bowl; cool 15 minutes. Add asparagus, chopped thyme, lemon peel, 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to mushrooms. Mix in crème fraîche and cheese. (Filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)
Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Mound filling atop pastry squares, leaving 1/2-inch plain border.
Bake tarts 12-15 minutes (not 25!), until crusts are puffed and golden and filling is warm. Transfer to plates; garnish with thyme sprigs.