Porcini and Scallop Tartlets

I really like cooking at Christmas time, and this year I had the responsibility of making a starter. I kind of feel like this is the most creative course in Christmas dinner, as you know the kind of thing you are going to get for the main and pudding. What’s more, Christmas this year was spent with the inlaws, so that starter had to be good- since they knew about my culinary hobby, I had a reputation to keep. With all this in mind, I decided the course was worth a bit of effort, and instead of using a recipe, I tried to come up with something myself.

Designing a course from scratch can be a tricky business- mainly because there are so many different ideas out there. So how did I go about it? Well, first off, I decided I wanted the starter to contain mushrooms as the main idea. Mushrooms are highly underrated, especially as most people only have tried the boring varieties you can find in supermarkets. Furthermore, I think they are a great Christmas flavour, work as a starter before turkey, and pair well with wine.

Next, I had to figure out how to serve them. I remembered my mushroom picking trip in Denmark, and the mushroomy meal we had. One of the courses that stood out to me was some mushroom tartlets- simply mushrooms in pastry with sauce, but since the flavours were brilliant, it worked really well. Mushroom tartlets it was.

Then to decide what other flavours to go with the mushroom tartlets- which meant a trip to a book I often use for designing courses: The Flavour Thesaurus. This book simply lists flavours that go well with other flavours. For mushrooms, you have suggested flavours like anise, apricot, asparagus, bacon, beef, chestnut, dill, egg, and so on. For the mushroom tartlets, I originally got intrigued by ‘blue cheese’, thinking of something like ‘mushrooms on Gorgonzola polenta tartlets’, but blue cheese is not the favourite of Mrs. Oxfood. After considering a few more flavours, I settled on scallops, chestnut, bacon, and mushroom tartlets. Very seasonal, I thought.

Now that I had decided what to do, it was time to do a practice run. I was going to make the tartlets out of puff pastry, but didn’t know whether or not to trim the pastry before or after cooking- I’d only made shortcrust pastry tartlets before. So in the practice run I did one tartlet trimmed, one untrimmed. The untrimmed tartlet puffed everywhere, and it was very hard to get the pastry out of the tartlet case. Trimmed tartlets it was. A practice run can help you get various presentation things right, as well as knowledge on how long various cooking tasks take, what can be easily cooked beforehand, or how thick to make a sauce. Your dinner that evening might not be as nice as it could be, but you’ll get the dish right when you have to make it for real.

The tartlets went down very well (as well as very quickly). I paired them with a pinot noir from Burgundy, which has with it lots of earthy and “sous-bois” (under-wood) flavours. Pinot noir is also an acidic wine, so could cut through the creamy mushroom sauce. An obvious, but very enjoyable pairing. Overall a great starter, which followed a lovely Christmas lunch- but I’ll make this recipe again.

Porcini, Chestnut and Scallop Tartlets

Porcini, Bacon, Chestnut, and Scallop Tartlets

Serves 8. You’ll need mini tartlet tins for this, they are a good investment for starters. A muslin is also useful for passing the porcini mushrooms through. I used ready-made puff pastry, just because of the time constraints, but it’s worth having a go at your own.

Ingredients:
50g dried porcini mushrooms (porcini mushrooms are also known as ceps)
200g chestnut mushrooms
8 rashers streaky bacon (as good quality as you can afford)
8 scallops, roe removed
12 chestnuts
2 packs (2 x 250g) ready-made puff pastry
450ml double cream
1 sprig thyme
2 tsp dark soy sauce
8 sage leaves, to garnish

Recipe:
1. Cook the ingredients. Heat the oven to 200ºC. Fry the bacon until crispy, and dice into small pieces. Pierce the chestnuts, put in a baking tray, then put the baking tray into the oven for 30 minutes. Wait until the chestnuts have cooled a little, then shell, and dice the chestnuts into small pieces. Pan-fry the chestnut mushrooms for around 15 minutes until their moisture has been removed. Dice the chestnut mushrooms into small pieces.
2. Make the sauce. Soak the porcini mushrooms in 500ml water for 20 minutes. Keeping the mushroom water, pour the mixture through a muslin. Add the double cream, thyme sprig, and soy sauce to the mushroom water, and reduce the sauce down until it is at the desired texture. When the sauce is done, remove the thyme sprig. Pan-fry the porcini mushrooms for around 5 minutes.
3. Make the tartlet cases. Heat the oven to 170ºC. Roll out the pastry to the thickness of around a pound coin. Cut into a size big enough to cover your tartlet case, then put another tartlet case on top. Repeat with the rest of the tartlet cases you have. Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes, until the pastry is cooked. Keep doing this until you have made all your tartlet cases.
4. Assemble the tartlets. Warm the ingredients if necessary. Pan-fry each of the scallops for around 2 minutes each side until they are cooked. Place the cooked scallops in the middle of the tartlets, and fill the rest of them with bacon, chestnut mushrooms, and porcini mushrooms. Pour a little sauce on the plate, put the tartlet on, and garnish with the chestnut and sage leaves.

Making Tartlet Cases

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Cookbook Recommendations « oxfood
  2. Trackback: Food and Wine Pairings IV: Regionality « oxfood
  3. Trackback: Two Can Dine for £10 « oxfood

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