As you might be aware, Thanksgiving is in about four days. Four days! Some of you already have your menus all planned, and some of you have probably already gone shopping, but for those of you wondering what to put out for noshing while everybody waits for the turkey, I'd like to add this pâté to the list of possibilities.
Technically this isn't a pâté, since it isn't a forcemeat. Actually it's not meat at all! What's that? Yes! It's vegetarian. But what with all the eggs and cream and porcini, it certainly doesn't lack for richness, and it's perfectly at home on your cheese plate or just by itself next to a pile of crackers. Don't skip the topping, the pâté is all smooth, creamy, and cool, so the bite of the scallions and crunch of the pecans is a perfect counterpoint.
Makes 2 mini loaf pans of pâté
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
If you don't want to spring for porcini, any mix of dried wild mushrooms will work just fine, porcini just adds a bit more depth of flavor. Don't be intimidated by the long instructions, this isn't a super quick and easy! type recipe, but it's worth the effort, and you can make it four or five days ahead to no ill effect. Make it today, serve it Thursday. What more can you ask?
1/2 ounce dried porcini
1 medium leek, sliced
10 ounces cremini or white button mushrooms, sliced
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons (1/2 a stick) butter
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup pecans
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs (fresh or panko)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
5-6 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
Soak the porcini in 2 cups warm water for 30 minutes. Once they're soft, remove the porcini, finely chop, and then pour the liquid into a small sauce pan (leaving any dirt behind in the bottom of the bowl) and reduce the soaking liquid over medium heat to 2 tablespoons.
Meanwhile, prepare the pans: butter two mini loaf pans, then line them with parchment and butter the parchment. I know it seems crazy but you do want to be able to get this out of the pan, right?
Preheat the oven to 325.
Heat a tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat, then add the leek and garlic and half a cup of pecans. Cook until the leek is soft, 8-10 minutes depending on your pan and how much you stir (enough so the garlic doesn't burn, ok?) Remove to a large bowl, but don't clean the pan. Melt another tablespoon of butter and cook 3/4 of the cremini mushrooms until tender. Add them to the bowl with the leeks, and season the mixture with salt and pepper. Taste it now, because you'll be adding raw eggs to it shortly. Cook the rest of the cremini, the shiitake and porcini mushrooms in one more tablespoon of butter until soft, then set aside in a separate bowl.
Make sure the leek mixture isn't too hot (just stick your finger in it), then add the eggs and cream and puree them (in a blender or using an immersion blender). Gently fold in the reserved mushrooms, the breadcrumbs and lemon juice.
Divide the batter (actually technically it’s a custard) evenly between the two prepared pans. Cover them with foil. Lay a clean kitchen towel in the bottom of a roasting pan or other baking dish with fairly high sides. Put the loaf pans on the towel, and fill the pan around them with very hot water (if your tap runs very hot, great, otherwise, set a few quarts on to boil when you start cooking. Look! You’re baking in a hot water bath! Bake for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, or until the center of the “loaf” is just barely set. Remove the whole contraption from the oven and let the loaf pans hang out in the hot water for an hour or so (they’ll finish cooking here and the center will set up firmly). Let cool to room temperature, then wrap in plastic and chill thoroughly, at least four hours or overnight.
Bring to room temperature before serving; give it about an hour on the counter (out of the pan). Slice the scallions and cook briefly in another tablespoon of butter, along with 1/2 cup chopped parsley and remaining 1/4 cup pecans. Top pâté with scallion mixture before serving with crackers or bread.