A little spice, a little smoke, and a lot of mushroom flavor!
I spent a lot of time working on this recipe, and I suspect I will still change it up just about every time I make it. This version is a little spicy, a little smoky, and a lot of flavor! The nuts are best in this, but if there are allergies in your family, substitute the pumpkin seeds. You can make this vegan by substituting coconut oil for the butter; use the kind that is solid at room temperature.
Our farmers’ market has a vendor who offers his own smoked cheeses and butter. The butter is phenomenal! Put it out with plain crackers, nothing else, and you have a feast! The smokiness is perfect in this paté, but you can also add a little smoked Spanish paprika if you can’t find smoked butter. P.S. I plan to work on smoking my own, so I will post it when I perfect it!
When I made this last, I used local wild hen of the woods, sulfur shelf, and locally cultivated shitake mushrooms from native wild spore. You can easily substitute crimini, portabella, and other market mushrooms, and it is still wonderfully tasty.
1 cup pecans, pistachios, or pumpkin seeds
2 cups minced leek
1 stick unsalted butter, smoked if available
¼ cup cognac or brandy
1 lb. mushrooms, a mix of varieties, at least three
1 tbsp. ground dried mushrooms
1 head of *roasted garlic, pulp mashed, see below
1/3 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, minced
1 tsp. each chopped fresh thyme and tarragon
1 tsp. ground anise seeds
1 tsp. Kosher salt
Liberal grinding of black pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne, optional and adjustable
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
A few extra nuts
If your pumpkin seeds or nuts are raw, toast them in a dry pan on top of the stove over medium-high heat. Keep them moving and don’t walk away. You will smell their lovely fragrance and know they are about ready. Remove to a bowl so they stop cooking. If left in the pan, they may burn.
Getting to know you…
Dice the leeks and sauté in the butter until fragrant and soft. Do not let these brown. Add the cognac, and cook to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Add your mushrooms and dried mushrooms, garlic, parsley, thyme, tarragon, anise, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Cook until soft and fragrant, at least 15 minutes to let all the flavors get to know each other, then add the pecans or pumpkin seeds. Place this all in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is fine and smooth. Remove to a large bowl (I use the one I had cooled the nuts in) and test for seasoning. You might need more salt or Spanish paprika if using, or more heat if you like.
If you would like added interest or texture to the paté, add some whole pistachios, or even some sliced dried apricots, something for a little color when sliced. This is another of those dishes that is absolutely delicious, but pretty boring to look at, so you might want to dress it up or a party.
Pack and chill
Pack mixture into well-oiled ramekins or bowl lined with cling film. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Serve with crackers, or thinly sliced radishes or cucumbers.
For gift giving: Pack a ramekin firmly with the mixture and level off the top. Add a film of melted clarified butter (butter which you have skimmed off the solids) to the top and gently float some herbs or even a thin slice of orange or tangerine.
*To roast garlic: Cut off the top of a whole bulb of garlic and remove any loose papery skins. Place on a small sheet of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil. Wrap the bulb up and place in a 400-degree oven for around 45 minutes. This will vary depending on how soft or old your garlic is, so test at 45 by gently squeezing to see if it feels like it has softened. Let cool, then pop the little insides out of each clove.