Sylvia’s Mushroom Pie by Bean & Thyme

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This recipe comes to us from Paul Osher, the Chef and Owner for Bean & Thyme here in Santa Monica.

In the binary separating pie-obsessives and everyone else, I admittedly fall into the latter.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good piece of pie.  I just don’t like making them.  For one thing, my baking skills border on incompetence. What’s worse, I know that too many people have exacting standards about how pie is supposed to be.  That’s where this pie fits in.  The unassuming savory richness is decidedly not about expressing the quintessence of summer.  It throws the snoots off balance; it’s the pie that you can’t not like.

I’ve been thinking about this mushroom pie for the past few weeks, but I’ve just gotten around to making it for the first time.  It’s my mom’s recipe.  She has one of those monumental birthdays coming up and I’ve been trying to figure out what to cook to celebrate.  To be honest, this isn’t her best dish, and for a woman who likes a lot of spice, this is curiously, um, bland.  But at our house this pie was a party mainstay and it nevertheless seems to capture a lot of what makes her a great cook: it always came out of nowhere, it held its own on a plate with six other things, and it had undeniable charm.  Just like my mom.

(As if there were any doubt, the pie in the photo was made by her, not me, for thanksgiving a few years ago.)

Keep reading for the recipe…

Sylvia’s Mushroom Pie

12 tbl Bacon fat, cold
2 cups Flour
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Baking powder
4.5 oz Cream cheese, cold
2 tbl Ice water
1 tbl Cider vinegar

1 lb White or cremini mushrooms, cut into 1/8ths
8 oz Cream cheese
1 Onion, diced
2 tbl Butter
Fresh thyme, to taste (you want a lot though)
Salt to taste
1 Egg yolk

For the crust:
-Put the flour, salt, and baking soda in a bag and freeze.
-Put the flour mixture in a food processor.  Pulse for a second to combine.
-Cut the cream cheese into pieces and add it to the flour.  Process for a few seconds until the mixture looks coarse.  Add the bacon fat and pulse briefly until mixed.
-Add the water and vinegar and briefly mix.  The dough will still be course.
-Separate the dough into two bags.  Knead them briefly from the outside, then flatten into discs and refrigerate from at least an hour.

For the filling:
-Cut the cream cheese into small cubes and let it come to room temperature.
-Over low heat, let the butter melt and saute the onion until brown, about 20 minutes.  Remove the onions from the pan.
-Raise the heat to high and add the mushrooms.  After a minute or two they will start to leech juice, which will then begin to evaporate.  The mushrooms are done when most of the liquid is gone and they’ve browned a bit, about five minutes.  Add salt to taste.
-Mix the mushrooms with the cream cheese and thyme.  Set aside.

To finish:
-Preheat oven to 350.
-Keeping it cold, roll one disc out to about twelve inches.  Carefully lift it up and place in a pie tin.
-For the lattice top, roll the second disc to about the same size.  Cut into 1/2 inch strips.
-Scoop the mushroom filling inside the pie dough.
-Cover the pie with a lattice top by weaving the strips into alternating layers.
-In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk with 1/4 cup of water.  Brush egg wash over the lattice.
-Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust turns a dark brown on top.
-Let the pie cool for ten minutes before cutting.

*My mom uses a store-bought pastry shell, so this is the one thing I’ve gussied up.  The recipe is based on one from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Pie and Pastry Bible, which is my go-to source for all things pie.  The one change I made is to substitute bacon fat for the butter.  It gives the pie some an unsubtle punch that makes the whole thing a bit more decadent.