Went to our first Christmas party of the year this weekend, a canapé potluck theme. Our good friends Kelly and John were hosting, and in her usual fashion, Kelly went all-out.
Lil’ peanut and I went over the day before to help with the prep, whipping up little bite-sized snacks and holiday libations. I stirred the biggest (and yummiest!) batch of egg nog I’ve ever hovered over (3 dozen eggs!!), and deep-fried a couple hundred bite-sized papadums, while sampling the fish puff pastries and snacking on the naan bread scraps from cutting out mini pizzas. Nothing says holidays like eating yourself through a buffet table before the party even starts.
By the time we got to the party the next day, Kelly had also made stuffed mushrooms, tiny baked potatoes, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus spears, chutney-topped papadums, fried prawns, “poo” balls (which were kind of like a chocolate injection – really good for keeping your guests awake!), as well as hot buttered rum and mulled wine (by the way, hot buttered mulled wine is truly amazing. Try it.) How do you do it Kelly? My guess is little elves snuck into her apartment while she was sleeping.
When Kelly announced the theme for the party, I immediately thought of one of my mom’s standbys from the 70/80s – creamy mushroom tarts. My job, when she made these savoury little treats, was to cut the circles of bread with a glass. Even at the age of four, I was showing signs of a love for the domestic arts (or maybe I had to do it to keep out of trouble – I did sit on a lit hibachi when I was about two after my big brother dared me to – my mom still keeps the grill-marked training pants that literally saved my butt in the kitchen drawer, but that’s another story.) I kept the recipe in its original form, the same way as my mom used to make them, minus the green canister of parmesan.
Creamy Mushroom Tarts
2 loaves sliced brown bread (I used 60% whole wheat, the squishy grocery store kind)
2 tbsp softened butter (salted or unsalted)
3 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
4 tbsp butter
1/2 lb mushrooms, finely chopped (You could use your food processor for this, but a good chop really helps to get your frustrations out.)
2 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped chives
2-3 tbsp grated parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Butter the inside of the smallest type of muffin tins. I used the two-bite style tins (about 1.5″ diameter), with 24 holes to a tin.
Cut out 24 2.5-3″ circles of bread with the top of a glass. (Yes, I am in my fancy cupcake PJs in the photo.)
Press each circle flat with your fingers, and squash them into the tins. Patch any holes or very thin spots with bread scraps. Just mash it into the bread cup and it should hold. Bake for 10 minutes, then cool the bread forms in the tins. Turn the oven temperature down to 350°F.
While the cups bake, make the filling. Melt the butter in a deep frying pan, dump in the shallots and cook until translucent.
Add the mushrooms. Stir and cook until the moisture that is released from the mushrooms evaporates.
Take the pan off the heat and stir in the flour. Add the cream and stir well. Return the pan to a high heat and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the sauce has thickened.
Add all the seasonings, taste and adjust the flavours if needed. Let the sauce cool a bit.
Fill the little bread cups with the mushroom mixture and top with a generous pinch of parmesan cheese.
Bake for 10 minutes. You’re done! Best enjoyed warm to hot, but pretty delicious at room temperature.
You can make the filling a day or two in advance, and bake the bread cups the morning of your party. Then just fill and bake when your guests arrive!
If you have any leftover filling, you can make bacon mushroom melts: fry up some chopped bacon until just crispy, drain off the fat and add the mushroom sauce to the pan with a bit of milk stirred in to thin it out, and heat until hot. Spread on toast and top with parmesan, broil until the cheese is bubbly. Cut into quarters and voila! Instant low-effort lunch.