Mushroom and Ajwain Pissaladière
A few weeks ago, I was flipping through a food magazine and came across a recipe for a traditional pissaladière. Of course, now I can’t find the article amongst the heaping piles of magazines I accumulate! Probably need a better reference system around here…Anyway, the dish is a Provençal pizza-like tart, a yeast-based dough typically topped with onions, anchovies and French oil-cured olives. No cheese, but for a pizza addict like myself (once a week!), this dish completely hits the spot.
I decided, of course, that a blank canvas like this needs – is basically crying for – an exotic twist. Wild mushrooms are in season, and I picked up these beautiful, feathery oyster mushrooms from the farmers’ market. In a previous post, I mention a spice, ajwain seeds, and how they pair gorgeously with mushrooms. Therein, lies the inspiration for this pissaladière.
Instead of making pizza dough from scratch, I like to use puff pastry because I’m a bit obsessed, but also because it saves time and forms the most perfectly thin, buttery, crunchy layer. And not to stray too far from the original, caramelized onions still form the base layer and work incredibly well with the spices and the sautéed mushrooms. The ajwain and cumin give a smoky, thyme-like kick, and the dish just pops with flavor.
I use this recipe all the time for entertaining because you can pre-cook the topping, assemble, pop it in the oven, and have the most delicious and elegant tart in 15 minutes. I sometimes pre-cut the pastry into little squares before cooking to make it easier. Put this out next to a cheese plate, and you are all set. Or whip it up for an easy weeknight app. Enjoy!
Serves 6 as an appetizer / Makes about 8 squares for hors d’oeuvres
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
olive or canola oil
3 tbsps unsalted butter
2 ½ cups sliced mixed mushrooms (I used a mixture of cremini, shiitake and oysters)
¼ tsp ajwain seeds
¼ tsp cumin seeds
2-3 medium-sized Spanish onions, thinly sliced
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
scant ½ tsp black pepper
scant ½ tsp chili powder
scant ½ tsp ground cumin
1 egg + 1 tbsp heavy cream
fresh thyme leaves
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Cover bottom of pan with oil and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Once foam has subsided, add mushrooms and toss to coat. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes until well-browned, season lightly with salt and place in a colander over a bowl to drain excess liquid and oil.
Wipe off skillet and set back over medium heat. Add oil again to coat the bottom of the pan and, when oil begins to shimmer, add ajwain and cumin seeds. Fry spices for about a minute being careful not to burn. Turn heat down to medium-low, add 2 tablespoons of butter, onions, crushed red pepper, black pepper, chili powder, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook on low for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently until onions soften and caramelize. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to fit the baking sheet; it will shrink a bit as it cooks. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and prick all over with a fork to prevent it from puffing too much. In a bowl, beat together the egg and heavy cream and brush puff pastry with egg wash. Bake for 10 minutes, and remove from the oven. Let sit for 2 minutes to deflate.
Using tongs, spread onion mixture onto pastry being sure to leave an uncovered edge around the outside. Try not to get any excess oil or butter on the pastry. Spread browned mushrooms on top, sprinkle with thyme leaves and bake for another 10-15 minutes until crust is golden brown.
Let cool slightly before cutting. I like to sprinkle a little fresh fleur de sel on top before serving.