We are entering one of the best times of the year for home cooking. The stretch of time between now and January is peak kitchen season, when even those who order takeout most of the time will dust off the pie pans and casserole dishes and cook something. Hallowed family recipes will be pulled from the drawer, for the annual ritual of holiday food preparation.
In between the traditions, there is always room for something new. One of my strategies for sharing at the holidays is to make a dish that can be served as an appetizer or side to the whole crowd, and a main course for the meatless among them. Today’s Mushroom and Sage Puff Pastry Tart is a delectable way to make sure everyone gets to celebrate with a delicious bite. It can even be made vegan, for the plant-based guests.
To make your entertaining as stress-free as possible, this recipe can be prepped ahead and assembled and baked at the last minute. The mushroom filling can be made up to four days before the day you want to serve it, and refrigerated.
For maximum flavor, use shiitake mushrooms. These are dense, meaty-tasting mushrooms that give the pastry the satisfying umami that we all crave. Sautéing them until they are shrunken and concentrated amplifies their meatiness, and gives them a slightly chewy texture.
Fresh sage will give the mushrooms a seasonal flavor, and because it’s so often used with poultry and sausage dishes, it seems meaty. Comté cheese is similar to Gruyère, but a little creamier and less salty. For a vegan option, go with a shredded melting cheese like Daiya, and use less of it.
Puff pastry is the smart cook’s go-to for quick but elegant appetizers. All you need to do is thaw it out, saving all the steps of making a crust. To make this even easier, you’ll simply top it and bake it, with no folding or shaping. Pepperidge Farm puff pastry is vegan, so if you are going purely plant-based, use that and skip the egg wash on the border.
If you make the filling ahead of time, all you really need is 10 minutes to roll and top and 15 minutes in the oven, and you have an impressive looking, deeply flavorful dish to share.
Give thanks and share a savory, flaky tart this holiday season.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan” and “Plant-Based Meats.” Find her at robinasbell.com.