Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.

Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.
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Monday, December 26, 2011

In an Elegant Groove

 Mushrooms are the humblest of plants, and yet they hold their own on the menu next to oysters and caviar.  Gotta love the little brown earth dwellers.
 I'm on a mushroom kick this holiday season.  This is because they happened to be on sale this week, and because they always seem special, no matter what you do with them.  I made stuffed mushrooms to take to one potluck early last week, for which you can find recipes in lots of cookbooks (Though I love them stuffed with sausage, I made them vegetarian, from the recipe in Bon Appetit's The Christmas Season).  I was planning to make my dad's wild rice with mushroom and hazelnut pilaf, to take to my friend Carol's Christmas Eve gathering, but that would have involved a twenty mile backtrack for the hazelnuts I forgot to purchase on the weekly grocery run.  Unfortunately, hazelnuts are not a hot commodity at our small-town supermarket, though one can find eleven kinds of sugar-loaded peanut butter, so don't say they offer no selection. 

Served on toast rounds, the pate here is garnished with mushroom slices, fried until crisp, and celery leaves.
I considered repeating the stuffed shrooms, but those are tastiest served hot, and I knew the ovens at that family's Christmas Eve feast would be in full service for all things hot and white (Is there a traditional Norwegian food that isn't white or light beige???), so I went searching for a cold mushroom dish.  Mom used to do a marinated mushroom appetizer that used Italian dressing, but those need overnight to marinate, and I only had a few hours. 

My recipe search led me to The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, (that's a cookbook by Mollie Katzen, and not someplace one goes after eating the wrong kind of mushrooms), wherein I found a recipe for mushroom pate.  I changed it slightly, partly because I didn't happen to have a few tablespoons of dry white wine, and though the Sparetime Tavern across the street might be persuaded to sell me a beer poured into my crock pot, they can't sell wine on their 3.2 license. 

Here's what I came up with:

1.  Saute two finely chopped medium sized onions
     in about 4 Tbs. butter until golden and starting to brown.
2.  Set onions aside, and add a little more butter to the pan (this is party food, so we will not be mentioning any unfestive words that begin with the letter c.   If  these things concern you, go graze on the raw broccoli and cauliflower that no one else eats from the veggie tray, and skip the dip, right along with this recipe).  In this golden pool, saute a pound and a half of coarsely chopped mushrooms, slowly, until they are quite dark, though not crispy.
3.  Stir the onions back into the mushrooms, then season with:
   3/4 tsp salt, 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp crushed tarragon or dill (or both!), 6 tbs sherry (cooking sherry is just fine), a couple chugs of Worcestershire sauce,  and about 1/4 tsp black pepper.  Let simmer about five minutes.
4. Stir in 1/4 cup oat bran.  What?  Don't have oat bran in your cupboard?  How about wheat germ? No?  Get out the blender and whir a handful of oatmeal until it's not quite flour. 
5.  Cut up a brick of Neufchatel (low fat cream cheese. It's okay, it tastes the same as the full-on stuff in recipes), and stir it into the mushroom mixture.
6.  Process this mixture in a few batches in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Careful!  Hot stuff can blow the top off a blender, so hold the lid down, or hold it tilted, so there is an air vent on the side facing away from you.
7.  In a large bowl, stir a 15-16 oz container of ricotta into this puree.  Taste, and adjust seasonings. 
8. Bake the pate at 400 degrees f. for an hour and fifteen minutes.  If you bake it in loaf pans, line two with buttered parchment.  This will give you firm flat bricks to place on platters and slice.  You can bake it in six or eight buttered ramekins, giving you an easy way to refresh it over the course of an evening, or you can bake it in a buttered casserole dish, then serve it in scoops on a bed of greens, or pipe it through a pastry bag onto toast points or crackers.  Serve with very mild bread or crackers, as the flavor is pretty delicate. Enjoy the pate, and the compliments!

When I'm not groovin' with shrooms in the kitchen, I'm out slinging a psychedelic rainbow of paint on peoples' walls.  Okay, I'm not actually that wild, but some of my customers do come pretty close!  Check out my portfolio by clicking here:  theartofthehome.com

Questions or comments?  Just click on the word "comments" below, and leave me a message here, or feel free to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

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