Tart alone was worth the drive

by: Submitted photo, PHOTO COURTESY OF U.S.F.S.
Chanterelle mushrooms are one of the Pacific Northwest’s favorite wild mushrooms. They are used in a variety of recipes at the Joel Palmer House, including to accompany salmon.

It was a dark and stormy night - our car's windshield wipers couldn't keep pace with the heavy downpour. We were inching our way along a two-lane highway in what could have been the worst rainstorm this winter. It would have been a good night to stay home, but no, my husband Mark and I were on a mission. No rainstorm would keep up from our culinary adventure. We were on a hunt for mushrooms.

Well, actually we weren't going to hunt mushrooms - just taste what the wizards at Joel Palmer House would do with them.

The Joel Palmer House in Dayton, is the labor of love of Jack and Heidi Czarnecki. They bought the property in 1996, satisfying a lifelong dream of combining great mushroom hunting with fine wines. It's little wonder they have settled in Dayton, in the heart of Oregon's wine and mushroom country. The Joel Palmer House is the restaurant the couple operate, showcasing seasonal foods and wines produced in the area. The menu features wild mushrooms in every dish - with the exception of the desserts, of course.

It's my kind of place.

The Joel Palmer House was the home of Oregon pioneer Joel Palmer. Palmer came to Oregon in 1845, and is credited with discovering the Barlow Trail on his trek over Mount Hood. Palmer served as superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Oregon Territory and was a member of the Oregon Legislature from 1862 through 1866. He used his land claim to lay out the town of Dayton on the Yamhill River. Today his house is listed on both the National and State Historic Registries.

The Czarneckis have transformed the house into their cozy restaurant. The main floor dining rooms can accommodate a surprising number of diners, during summer months, the wrap-around porch is used for seating as well. On the blustery night of our visit we were thankful for the comfort of the snug mid-1800s structure.

So back to the food - what did our culinary adventure entail?

We started our meal with the best mushroom tart either of us had tasted. It stood regally on the plate, and then melted in your mouth. I remember noticing its creamy consistency - just like that of pumpkin pie. We could have left after the tart, fully sated.

The menu offered us entrees galore: filet mignon with porcini mushrooms, stroganoff with wild mushrooms, rack of lamb with pinot noir hazelnut sauce with jalapeno cornbread. We were tempted to take on Jack's Mushroom Madness, but couldn't see how we could eat it all. You select the entrée and Jack prepares a five course extravaganza for your delight - and of course, every dish features wonderful wild mushrooms.

We felt we ordered perfectly. Mark chose the fish of the day, a salmon with chanterelles. I opted for the Tenderloin of Dayton Pork with Kapusta, confit of apples, carmelized onions, and dried cherries with wild mushrooms and port sauce.

Joel Palmer House has been closed for a well-deserved vacation during the month of January, and will reopen Feb. 8. Visit the Web site at www.joelpalmerhouse.com to learn more about their menu and make reservations.

Hopefully you won't have to drive through a torrential rainstorm, but if you do, know that it will be worth it.

Today's recipe is for the memorable mushroom tart we enjoyed at Joel Palmer House. If you cannot find the specialized wild mushrooms (noted with *s), you can use any mushroom you like, more pliable varieties are best for the overall creamy texture.

Heidi's Three Mushroom Tart

Serves 8 to 10

Tart crust:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons lard or margarine

The filling:

3 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cups chopped clitopilus prunulis*

1 cup reconstituted cepes, finely chopped*

1 cup sliced fresh honey mushrooms*

¼ cup chopped red bell pepper

1 teaspoon minced garlic

½ teaspoon curry powder

½ teaspoon dried savory

Pinch of cayenne pepper

4 eggs

2 cups heavy cream

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut the lard or margarine into the flour with a pastry cutter, add 1/3-cup cold water, and mix until a ball is formed from the dough. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Roll out the dough and lay into a 10-inch spring-form pan along the bottom and up the sides. Press foil onto the dough and weight with some uncooked beans or rice. Place into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, remove beans and let cool.

Add the butter to a large sauté pan over medium heat and sauté the onion for one minute. Add the mushrooms and red pepper and continue to sauté for another two minutes. Add the garlic, curry powder, savory and cayenne, stir well and remove from the heat and let cool.

Beat the eggs with a whisk in a bowl and add the cream, whisking well. Add the mushroom mixture to the custard and mix again.

Pour the custard mixture into the pastry shell and bake for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 300º F and bake until custard sets, about another 15 minutes, or until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 15 minutes, then slice and serve.

From A Cook's Book of Mushrooms

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached by phone at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at brandall@lakeoswe