mushroom pate

February 3, 2007

Not long ago we had friends over for a dinner, usually a pretty regular occurrence. The holidays and all that went with them been getting in the way. There were travel plans and family obligations coming up, so we decided to make a night of it. I laid in a largish supply of wine, cheese, and treats, but put off getting the nuts and bolts of the meal until after I had gotten out of the office, just a few hours before the guests were to arrive. I had purchased a sizable tenderloin the day before, but had neglected to clean it. The puff pastry was still cryogenically preserved, in a state somewhere between concrete and granite deep in the bowels of the freezer. As is often the case, my plans failed to take into account a number of variables that slightly more intuitive folks might have expected:

  • there is (still) no such thing as actual foie gras in Anchorage, at least not for the general public.
  • there is no pâté in Anchorage on Friday afternoon at 6:30 PM,either.
  • cooking a whole tenderloin takes awhile.
  • it takes a lot of pastry to cover a whole tenderloin,
  • allowing for two bottles of wine per person makes for an interesting evening.
  • this will also make dinner late, but good friends don’t really care.

Making a wellington requires searing the meat and then allowing it to rest and cool for awhile in the refrigerator before you actually build and bake it. I’ve gone over making a wellington before. It’s one of my favorite fancy-pants dinners, and something I only do one once or twice a year. They aren’t hard to make, but I figure if I can always have my favorite things, those things won’t be special for too long. Anyway, last minute planning, or the lack of it, left me without any type of pate to top the beef with before it got wrapped up in the puff pastry. That’s kind of a big part of the wellington, and so I needed to come up with something to replace it. I found a few recipes for mushroom ragout and a sort of tapenade. and decided they could be adapted.

mushroom ragout:
1 pound wild mushrooms, sliced
4 tbs butter, divided
1 medium shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup brandy
2 tbs heavy cream
3/4 cup beef broth
splash of port
2 tbs olive oil
fresh rosemary and thyme
salt & pepper to taste

In the pan you used to sear off the tenderloin, heat half of the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and increase the temperature a bit. Let them to cook until they begin to give up their liquid and brown. Give the pan a shake to turn them and dazzle your audience, then add the rest of butter. Continue to saute over medium high heat for about five minutes, and dump in the shallots. Once they’ve sweated and softened a bit, add the brandy and allow the alcohol to flame up. This is not a good time to leave the kitchen, or to be wearing a lot of of hairspray. Instead, turn the mushrooms to expose more of the alcohol. Continue this until the flames die out. Season with salt and pepper, add the thyme and deglaze the skillet with the wine, making sure to scrape up the lovely brown mushroom and tenderloin bits clinging to the bottom of the pan. Reduce the liquid by about half, and then remove half of the mushrooms to another skillet and set aside. In the hot skillet, drizzle in the heavy cream over the remaining mushrooms. Bring just to a boil, and remove from the heat. Spread this mixture out to cool if you’re making wellington. For the pate, heat the other mushrooms (without the cream), and add the beef broth and port. Allow to reduce until almost all of the liquid is gone, and remove from the heat. Pour them into a food processor, along with the herbs and pate while drizzling in the olive oil. The herbs just happened to be what was on had, and ones I thought would go well over beef. Season to taste. This worked quite well in place of the liver, and was actually a better choice for some of the less carnivorous diners round the table. It’s also quite good as a spread on crackers, or in a panini.

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1 Christine (myplateoryours) February 4, 2007 at

Sounds wonderful — hold the beef. What kinds of wild mushrooms do you all get up there ( none at this season, I’d imagine, but what kinds in the less snowy months?)

jared says: we have pretty much the same here as you’d find in the rest of the country. the burns are supposedly quite good for morels, but honestly I’ve always been too afraid that I’d be chowing down on something that might kill me, or at least make me turn purple and grow scales. it has only been in the last couple of years that I could even consider eating mushrooms at all, much less enjoying them. now i’m a convert.

as far as the beef goes, I figure i’m doing a service for my vegetarian friends by eating more meat so you guys don’t have to…grin.

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