Saturday, May 10

Mushroom pâté

I just submitted this recipe to an online competition where the prize is a kilo of fresh morels. Not a bad prize but pretty unlikely. However, since I had it all written out I figured I'd post it here as well.

Divine wild mushroom pâté
I created this dish when a friend surprised me with a few pounds of morels and asked if I could create a three course feast to showcase them. The added twist being the entire meal had to be vegetarian!

Forget chicken livers, this pâté is simple to make, melts in your mouth and disappears within minutes of reaching the table. Best served with hot ciabatta toast.

1 cup dried wild mushrooms (porcini, shitake, chanterelle, lobster and oyster etc) – rehydrated and liquor reserved
2-3 cups of fresh mushrooms (cremini, shitake, oyster, morel etc) - sliced
4oz butter (1 stick)
2-3 cloves of garlic – crushed
¼ cup of sherry or white wine
½ cup cream
1 handful Italian flat leaf parsley and/or tarragon
Salt and plenty of cracked black pepper to season

Rinse the dried mushrooms to remove any residual grit. I use porcini for their amazing texture and shitake, chanterelle, lobster and oyster mushrooms for their rich flavor. Really any mushrooms will do but avoid using too many wood-ears because their texture is too gelatinous.

Cover with boiling water and allow to soak, then simmer them very gently for 10 minutes. Drain the rehydrated mushrooms but reserve the liquor as much of the rich flavor has been transferred there.

For the fresh mushroom, select your favorite combination. I primarily used morels when I had them, and bulked out with some milder cremini, white or honey brown mushrooms. When fresh morels are unavailable I use a mixture of fresh shitake, oyster and cremini mushrooms for the combination of tastes and textures.

Clean and roughly slice the mushrooms and cook them until they are nicely browned and reabsorbing their released moisture. Use at least half a stick of butter to sauté the mushrooms, if not more. The more butter the creamier the pâté and the better that cool, smooth mouth feel when it first hits the palate. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper as you cook them and add 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic towards the end of the browning process, so that the garlic doesn’t burn but remains a major player in the flavor stakes.

Deglaze the pan with sherry or white wine, depending on your preference. I like sweet sherry, especially if I’m going with a peppery pâté, but use white wine if you prefer a slightly lemony edge.

At this point you can turn the heat down to a happy simmer, add the rehydrated dried mushrooms, half a cup of good quality cream and a little of the mushroom liquor. Be careful not to add any of the sediment that may have settled at the bottom of the mushroom liquor because you don’t want any grit in the pâté.

Allow the whole mixture to simmer and infuse until the cream reduces. Use the mushroom liquor to stop the mixture reducing too much. It’s a balancing act but you want the mushrooms well coated in the cream mixture but not swimming in gravy. The cream mixture should thicken slightly. At this point add as much cracked black pepper as you can handle, and season with salt as required. Remove from the heat and continue to stir occasionally as it cools so you don’t get a skin forming.

Once the mixture is luke-warm, and a good handful of chopped Italian flat leaf parsley and/or fresh tarragon and blend the whole mixture in a food processor until smooth but not total paste; it should retain some fine mushroom texture. Taste and season again if required. Transfer to small serving bowls and top with cracked pepper and/or some more finely chopped herbs. Chill for a few hours or overnight then serve with hot ciabatta toast or on melba crackers.

Leftover pâté is also amazing when mixed through pasta as if it were a pesto, or a dollop can be added as the finishing touch to a creamy mushroom soup, or used as a filling in home made ravioli, and melted over a freshly grilled rib-eye…priceless.

You know, I think I might start posting more recipes here...hmmm

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