4 min read

Stone Soup #21: Who You Calling a Tart - Varenne Tart

More like Marquis d'Suck

Stone Soup is an ongoing quarantine feature in which I come up with a recipe that uses the impossible thing in your cupboard, without making you go to the store or wasting any of your ingredients. Last time, we had dip for dinner.

I took a few days off recipe-writing to be overwhelmed by book news, but now I’m back! Don’t worry, I’m still overwhelmed. But more than that, I’m fucking hungry. Let’s dig in.

Katie says:

Many months ago I was making teatime treats and accidentally purchased large pastry shells instead of the dainty single bite kind. I have at least six or maybe twelve, but find reheated pastry to be gross. I’m looking for something that I can make 1-2 of at a time, maybe a filling that would last in the fridge for pastry on demand? Sweet or savory is acceptable, I live with one other adult who also eats food.

Miscellaneous notes:

Restrictions are: no eggs, no mammalian meats.

Katie then included a rundown of what ingredients she can access, which is pretty ample and includes a well-stocked cupboard, a variety of cheeses, and mushrooms.

So let’s talk DUXELLES. Duxelles makes me mad, because it’s an example of this thing where a long time ago, a chef developed a delicious thing, and then his shitty boss was like “oh this is named after ME now.” Duxelles are named after the Nicolas Chalon du Blé, the Marquis d'Uxelles, who surrendered at the Siege of Mainz and also was predatory toward his valets and aspiring officers in the military. That fucker doesn’t deserve to have duxelles named after him. It’s unjust. The guy who invented duxelles was named François Pierre de la Varenne, and he was a huge deal, and he deserves the credit here.

But duxelles also makes me happy, because duxelles is delicious. It’s simple as fuck and makes a stellar tart or pie filling. We’re going to work some cheese in there to make it more fridge-stable, and also because cheese is a good time. So let’s give credit where it’s due, and make a

Varenne Tart

Yeah, I said it. Fuck the Marquis d’Uxelles.

Step One: Prep your tart shell. Listen, I don’t know how to make tart shells from scratch and I don’t care to find out. Pull out your frozen tart shell and do what it says on the box. If you feel like making your own tart shell, I’ll be extremely impressed, but you’re on your own there.

Step Two: Prep. Finely chop two shallots or one sweet onion. Also, finely chop a fuckton of mushrooms, like a pound maybe? Lots of people think you should only use mushroom stems for duxelles, but that’s not how we do things around here. Make your own hours. Eat cake for breakfast. Use the whole mushroom.

If you have access to fresh herbs, pluck the leaves and chop them up really fine. Thyme is good here, or sage, or parsley, or oregano. I wouldn’t use basil, but if you do that, I won’t know about it, so I won’t be able to frown at you and shake my head.

Step Three: Duxelle it. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Just before the butter gets brown, throw in your mushrooms. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes, until soft. Then throw in the shallots, plus more butter if things are looking dry. Keep stirring until those are soft, too, another 5-10 minutes or so. Throw in your herbs, add salt and pepper, et voila! Duxelles! Let it cool while that tart shell cooks.

Once your tart shell is cooked, preheat your oven to 400°F. Don’t forget. DO IT.

Step Three: Assembly. Okay, your tart shell is out of the oven, right? Nice. Put a good layer of cheese in the bottom of the tart shell, enough to completely cover the crust and make you feel like you should buy shares of whatever company makes Lactaid. This is going to serve a couple of purposes. Purpose one: it adds cheese, which is good to eat and will make your tart taste like cheese. A+. Purpose two: The cheese will form a nice lipid layer between the moist mushrooms and the bottom crust — this is our attempt to prevent the dreaded soggy bottom. You can use lots of different cheeses for this layer! A goat cheese will work, or a gruyere, or a swiss. I’d stick to flavors that are either mild, or sharp but light. Stay away from rich, fatty cheeses like brie, and avoid heavyweights like cheddar. Feel free to experiment with combinations.

Next, you’re going to put the duxelles on top of the cheese layer. I want a little added richness here, so I might stir a couple of tablespoons of creme fraiche, sour cream, greek yogurt, or heavy cream into the duxelles before I add it, but that’s really up to you. It’ll be good either way. Feel free to season a little extra here — toss on more herbs, salt and pepper, sliced roasted garlic, whatever keeps your boat buoyant.

Don’t cover this with a pastry lid — we didn’t cook enough moisture out of the mushrooms for that. Instead, top with ample shredded cheese. Feel free to throw some breadcrumbs in there, too, if you like, but the cheese is what’s crucial to keeping this fridge-friendly.

Step Three: Bake. All you need to do in this step is heat the filling all the way through, melt the cheese on the bottom layer, and brown the cheese on top. That should only take you about 10 minutes. If the top doesn’t look handsome at that point, put it under the broiler for a few minutes.

That’s it! You did it! You made a Varenne Tart, so named for the motherfucker who actually invented duxelles! This should keep in the fridge just fine for a few days, thanks to all that cheese, which will reheat beautifully.

Just the recipe:

Varenne Tart

  • Finely chop a pound of mushrooms and a couple of shallots.
  • Saute mushrooms in butter until soft, 5-10 minutes. Add shallots and more butter, and saute until soft, 5-10 minutes. Stir in fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. Now it’s duxelles! Remove from heat and cool, then stir in 2 tbsp heavy cream.
  • Prepare a tart shell according to package instructions, then remove from oven and set oven heat to 400°F.
  • Fill the bottom of the tart shell generously with cheese. Layer duxelles on top of this. Optional: add more herbs and spices here. Top with shredded cheese (optional: add breadcrumbs to this layer).

Bake for 10 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top. Finish under broiler if necessary. Serve hot and store covered.