When I was a kid we had chopped chicken livers a lot and I still have fond memories of the smooth and creamy texture of the treat. It’s been decades since I’ve eaten liver but something triggered the memory the other day and I decided to recreate the dish for a vegan palate. Mushrooms are a perfect stand in. They’re meaty and blend into a smooth and luxurious pate with a wonderful mouthfeel. Toasted walnuts accentuate the meaty flavor and add a little bit of nutty taste.
I made a big batch of the mushroom pate the other day and served it to friends and family on three successive nights. Even the confirmed meat-eaters loved it. Serve on crackers, melba toast or pita chips.
WHAT YOU NEED
2 lbs of crimini mushrooms, cleaned and cut into a large dice
2/3 cup walnut pieces
3 shallots, cut into small pieces
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil (NOT extra virgin)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T fresh rosemary, finely chopped
3 T brandy (Optional)
Salt and pepper
WHAT TO DO
Add the non-extra virgin olive oil to a large saute pan on high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the mushrooms and saute over high heat. After 4 or 5 minutes, add the shallots and lightly season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking the mushrooms until they give up their water and the water cooks off, about 4 more minutes, and the mushrooms are browned. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic. Cook for a minute or two until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the brandy, if you’re using it, which adds a nice layer of flavor to the dish. Be careful with the brandy, though. It can ignite if the flame from the burner reaches it. The safe way is to remove the pan from the burner, add the brandy and then return the pan to the burner. Cook another couple of minutes until the brandy has cooked off. Transfer the mushrooms to the food processor and let them cool.
Meanwhile, toast the walnut pieces in a dry frying pan over medium to medium/high heat. Watch them carefully. There’s a fine line between perfectly toasted and burnt. Toss them around in the pan every 30 seconds or so. It should take just a few minutes. When the nuts are toasted, add them to the mushrooms in the food processor and also add the extra virgin olive oil and the rosemary, along with some salt and pepper. Process everything in the food processor, stopping every ten seconds or so to scrape down the sides of the bowl. After about 20 seconds, taste the pate and add salt and pepper as needed. If the pate mixture is too dry, add more EVOO to loosen it up. Continue processing until the mixture is smooth and creamy or, if you prefer, you can leave more texture.
When the pate is your preferred texture, transfer it to a serving bowl. Serving it at room temp is best. When it’s cold, like straight from the fridge, the flavors don’t come through. If you have leftovers, save them covered in the fridge. The pate should be fine for three or four days. Leftover mushroom pate also makes a great sandwich. Try a layer of pate topped with egg salad and some red onion nestled between two pieces of bread. Yum.