This pâté was one of the first recipes I successfully adjusted on my own. My stepmother clipped the original recipe from a newspaper, probably in the late 1980s, and I revisited it around the time of my first cooking job in college. Its base was hazelnuts and mushrooms, which is inherently a great combination, but with a few small adjustments, I improved on the original. All I did was trust my instincts and play around a bit. Today, I make a version of that same pâté with a few more tweaks.
In Oregon, chanterelles are in season at the same time as hazelnuts, so this starter is a particularly lovely expression of where I’m from. I usually serve this rich dish as an appetizer, but because it has a meaty flavor from the nuts and mushrooms, it works nicely as part of a vegetarian main dish, as well. You can also serve this versatile pâté with my buttery Homemade Ritz Crackers, spread it on a crusty baguette, use it as a topping for a savory dough (like Crème Fraîche Tarts, or serve it with a cheese plate.
- 1 pound wild mushrooms (such as chanterelles or porcini)
- 0.33 cup hazelnuts (see Note)
- 9 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup finely minced shallot
- 2 teaspoons garlic paste
- 1¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dry Marsala
- 1 tablespoons tawny port
- 1 teaspoon aged sherry vinegar
- 1¾ teaspoons 10-year aged balsamic vinegar
- 0.0625 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 0.0625 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Clean the mushrooms (see Note). Cut or tear into evenly sized pieces about ½ inch thick. Divide the mushrooms into two equal batches.
- Spread the hazelnuts on a small baking sheet and toast in the oven for 6 minutes. Carefully shake the baking sheet to turn the nuts over, then toast for 2 to 4 minutes longer. To test if the nuts are ready, cut one in half; it should be a light golden color and toasted all the way through.
- In a large black steel pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic paste and ¼ teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic no longer smells raw, about 1 minute. Transfer the shallot mixture to a plate and set aside. Wash and thoroughly dry the pan.
- In the same large black steel pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining butter over medium heat until melted. Add half of the mushrooms, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper and stir briefly to combine. Sauté, moving the mushrooms around constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes, until they start to color on their edges and the moisture they release evaporates. All of the mushrooms should be soft and tender, with no spongy quality or rawness to them. (Note that the mushrooms may seem overseasoned when you taste them on their own, but the pâté will taste balanced because the hazelnuts aren’t seasoned.) If the mushrooms have not begun to brown at the edges, turn up the heat slightly and continue to cook for another minute or two.
- Transfer the mushrooms to a plate and set aside. Wipe out the pan and repeat using 2 tablespoons of the remaining butter, the second batch of mushrooms, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. When the second batch is cooked, add the first batch back to the pan along with the shallot mixture and warm until all of the mushrooms are heated through. Add the Marsala and port, allow the mixture to absorb them for 20 to 30 seconds, and then turn off the heat. Set aside to cool.
- In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add the sherry and balsamic vinegars and remove the pan from the heat.
- Place the hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse until they have the texture of coarse meal, about 7 bursts. Add the mushroom mixture, the cayenne, nutmeg, and lemon zest and, with the machine running, slowly pour in the melted butter mixture. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Put the pâté into a ramekin and smooth the surface. Serve at room temperature. Leftover pâté can be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 5 days. Bring it to room temperature before serving.