I always thought there was some connection between Betty Crocker and pottery. After all, “crocks” were really the first handmade pottery we owned when I was a child in the 60’s. Come to think of it, I don’t know if they were really handmade or if they just looked like it. Mom, always a bargain hunter, probably got her soup crocks at a flea market. We had a joke: “Don’t buy it at the store, Mom will get it for 3 cents at a flea market.” So, who knows? BTW, Mom will be 80 this spring, and she is still an avid thrifter!
Have I lost you already or are you wondering why I am talking about soup crocks in a post about savory pie? It turns out that the origins of this recipe are deeply rooted in the corporate icons that permeated the cooking culture of my youth: Betty Crocker. And Bisquick, which is apparently a brand created by General Mills. The name “Crocker” reportedly belonged to an actual man. Who was an executive of some sort. And here I grew up thinking that my first cookbook was written by a pottery loving woman, not by a huge multinational corporation. Which, of course, was what I was supposed to think. Well, maybe not the pottery part.
I first found a related (updated and more recent) recipe in Cook’s Country. Impossible Ham and Cheese Pie was purported to “let you get a crust without rolling out pie dough.” Oddly (everything about this is odd, right?), it is one of the few ATK recipes I’ve followed to the letter only to have it fail. It only failed in the sense that it didn’t really form a crust. But, it was great. And easy. And fun to make. And, of course, I had to make my own variation(s).
I thought it was called “impossible” because it was supposed to make its own crust. But, it seems that our pottery-loving friend Betty published a series of recipes using Bisquick that were “impossibly easy.” Betty may or may not have loved clay (um…), and she may or may not have been a real person (not), but the one thing we all know is that, above all else, she loved easy. And easy things that magically or impossibly formed other things were really popular with Betty. Even if it didn’t really work.
My current adaptation of this nostalgic, corporate infused (and confused) recipe, is indeed easy. It does not contain Bisquick. I am a real person. And I do love pottery. A big thank you to the editors at Cook’s Illustrated for teaching us how to make a somewhat less corporatized version of the impossible. While my version, like theirs, doesn’t really produce a crust, the addition of the flour and baking powder adds a really interesting and welcome texture somewhere between a quiche, a frittata, and a savory bread pudding. It’s easy, fun, nostalgic, savory, and kinda elegant. I think you’ll love it.
Impossible Mushroom and Cheese Pie
We love this with some veggies and/or a salad for supper, but it would be great as an appetizer (bake in a square dish and cut into little squares), or for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. It reheats well, so make it ahead if you like.
This is a very flexible recipe. It can be modified to allow you to use up whatever is in your pantry or fridge, particularly all those little pieces of cheese in the dairy bin.
I use local farm eggs (these are from a local friend, thanks, Sally!) from free running happy chickens and organic ingredients and encourage you to do the same, if possible!
4 large eggs
2 tbs butter, softened
2 tbs finely grated parm
2 cups grated cheddar, gruyere, or swiss*
¾ cup whole milk
½ cup flour
¾ tsp baking powder
2 tsp dijon or country dijon mustard
10 oz cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 tbs neutral oil
1 tbs minced parsley (optional)**
salt and pepper to taste
*You may use any combination of soft or semi-hard cheeses. Blue and/or goat are great.
**Feel free to use other herbs. Chives or dill are especially good.
Preheat oven to 350°. Rub a 9 inch round or 8 inch square baking dish with the butter and sprinkle the bottom with the parm.
Heat the oil in a large skillet and when you see wisps of smoke, add the mushrooms; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté over high heat (listen to them squeak) until they brown and shed their liquid and then the liquid evaporates. Move the mushrooms to a plate to cool.
In a big mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, mustard, flour, baking powder, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Add the cheese, and parsley, if using.
Place the mushrooms in the prepared baking dish. Pour the egg mixture over and make sure all the ingredients are distributed fairly evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until puffed, brown and just set. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving.