Monday, October 29, 2012

Wild (or not-so-wild) Mushroom Paté

Look, even foie gras just isn't that photogenic.

Hello from Hurricane Sandy headquarters! Okay, not headquarters exactly, nor hindquarters. Midquarters? We are all home, playing hooky, with big plans to watch the second half of Hair--which is as good, if not better, than I remember—if we still have power (the fact that Michael is right now braving the wind to bring home red wine and amaretto is great consolation for the fact that I didn't marry Treat Williams like I meant to). Otherwise (and, probably, additionallywise) we’re going to play Seafarers and Power Grid, which we’ve chosen for their thematic relevance to the situation at hand. I hope you’re all safe and dry and enjoying the silveriest lining of a day off. Unless you’re in, like, California. And then whatever. You’re in California.

Does the parsley help? Or is it like Walter Matthau in a Prada dress?
I’m posting this recipe today because I have been going crazy picking the oyster mushrooms that are growing on a stump at Birdy’s school. I sneak out there all furtive-like, since I don’t want the children to see me. “Hey kids! Wild mushrooms are for picking and eating! What’s the worst that could happen?” The mushrooms are so big and plentiful that it seems silly to eat anything else right now.

But this is one of those recipes that I have been making for so long that I can’t believe I’ve never shared it with you before. (I haven’t, right?) It’s one of my holiday standards: I make it for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it is an oft-requested recipe (in fact, years ago, I had to reverse-request it, because Michael’s brother Keith has written it down, and I hadn’t) thanks to its unctuous, savory deliciousness. Plus, it’s vegetarian, which is always nice at the holidays, even though one year I (oops!) cooked the mushrooms in chicken fat and forgot to tell the relevant people. Sorry!

Stay safe and cozy and happy.

 Wild (or not-so-wild) Mushroom Paté

I am lifting that title from my friend Sally’s recipe for roasted mushrooms in the forthcoming winter issue of ChopChop. Can I plug ChopChop again here? The fun cooking magazine for families? I edit it, and it’s just fantastic—and would make a great holiday gift for anyone on your list. Subscribe here!

4 tablespoons butter, divided (Divided. By what? You’ll see!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
Dried or fresh marjoram or thyme (1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh, a big pinch dried)
Kosher salt
3/4-1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms, any kind, wild or tame, in any combination
½ cup walnuts, toasted at 350 until fragrant but not burnt, 5-10 minutes
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
3 ounces Neufchatel cheese (cream cheese is an okay substitution—but Neufchatel is a lot like it, made by Philadelphia even, but just with fewer glunky stabilizing agents)
Black pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Sauté  the onion with the herbs and a large pinch of salt until it is fully soft and quite brown, around ten to fifteen minutes. Scrape the onion into a food processor fitted with the steel blade.

In the same pan, assuming it’s not gone black anywhere, melt the rest of the butter over high heat and sauté the mushrooms, with a large pinch of salt, until they are tender and nicely browning, around ten to fifteen minutes. Mushrooms are funny: first they’ll give up a lot of juice, and seem like they’re steaming—but persist with the high heat. The juice will cook off and then the mushrooms will start to dry out a bit and brown up, which is what you want. Splash in the sherry vinegar, stir it as it sputters and steams, then scrape the mushrooms into the food processor.

Add the walnuts and cheese to the food processor, along with another large pinch of salt and significant grinding of black pepper, then process until nearly smooth, stopping to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Taste the mixture for salt and vinegar. It should be very well seasoned and will likely need more salt: add it, along with more vinegar (a half teaspoon at a time) until it tastes perfect.

Serve with bread or crackers.


  1. Anonymous11:55 AM

    This is so lame but it really helps to have pictures of your ingredients, since I get sherry vinegar and sherry wine and sherry sherry confused,so thank you!! I made your cheese crackers this morning, they DO taste just like Cheez-its and the kids ate all of them off the pan!

  2. Being earthquake- and hurricane- and tornado-safe here in the Colorado rockies, my kids and I are a little inappropriately excited about the impending hurricane. Glad you're all home together, eating and playing board games, as we can all so easily picture.

  3. I've never had paté of any variety, and I'm not even a huge mushroom fan, but the addition of cheese and walnuts is willing me to try this. Plus my husband loves mushrooms. And I do think the parsley is a bit like your Walter Matthau reference, which was spot on by the way.

    I read the fall ChopChop this weekend and had my 5 year old pick out something to make during the week. I can't wait to try the smoothie. I was so enticed by the teasers for the winter issue that I decided to subscribe. My son's reading now, which will make the magazine that much more fun.

    Stay safe in the nasty weather. I hope y'all don't lose power, but I know your resourcefulness will pull the family through even if you do.

  4. lisdarl2:04 PM

    Hi! Do you like it hot or cold? (And nope, this is not a reference to Marilyn Monroe nor an odd Robert Palmer song trivia question...) Is it a good "make ahead"? I'm all about the make ahead.

    Stay cozy!

  5. Shannon H.3:41 PM

    Stay safe and dry!

  6. Anonymous4:06 PM

    Hair! Fabulous!! My favorite song in that movie is Easy to Be Hard. Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. Enjoy your cozy family day and stay safe!

  7. Anonymous4:17 PM

    Hair! My favorite movie. The soundtrack is on my phone which can be a little awkward in the car sometimes. I have the hugest crush on Berger.

    I have the hardest time proving I'm not a robot on here.

  8. wow this looks good. usually i see your recipes and feel eager to make it. maybe it is the storm, but right now, i just want someone to show up on my door with this. wish me luck.

  9. Heather4:47 PM

    Stay safe and dry! Catherine, you always have the best suggestions for games. I was wondering if there is any chance you might do another "Catherine Newman reccomends these awesome games" round up sometime? My kids are a little younger than yours, but we have SO enjoyed playing slamwich, bake me a cake, sleeping queens, etc. I don't think I would have discovered them without you

  10. Is that a small onion in the photo or a shallot? I always wonder what small or medium means in terms of onions -- if that's small, I'm in trouble! Where would I get such a tiny thing? The average yellow onion around here is the size of a soft ball!

  11. Anonymous5:42 PM

    We're in California! So, yeah... 'whatever' is what we deserve.

    But I miss big storms (though it goes without saying, not ones like just happened.)

    Yes, please, to another round up of games! And ChopChop goes on the wishlist.

    Plus (have I said this before?), do you know Edith Pearlman's short stories? Binocular Vision is hands-down the best short story collection I've read in, like, a decade. And that decade included Jhumpa Lahiri and Amy Bloom, whom I also adore. Single sentences stayed with me for days.

  12. Allyson11:11 AM

    I'm going to make this if the power ever comes back on so I can run my food processor again! We're in Westchester County, NY, and feeling lucky that power is all we've lost. There's so much devastation all around. I hope you and yours weathered the storm ok.

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  14. Kimberly Bee9:31 PM

    Not really relevant to the specific post, but more to you in general, you should to go to youtube and watch the video for the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros song "That's What's Up" screams Catherine Newman to me and I think you'd love it :))

  15. Danabee11:05 PM

    Hair! Had a HUGE crush on Berger back when I first saw the movie when I was... 14? My Mom had the original LP and I played it til she asked me to stop.

    The dip. Ohmigosh, THE DIP. I made it for Thanksgiving, Part II (ie, Saturday) and it was a huge hit. We ate the tiny leftover bit this morning practically with our fingers when the little toasts I'd made ran out. This is our new favorite potluck appetizer. It will probably (at least temporarily) replace my husband's every day cheese dip that I made up for him too. Really delicious, thank you.