Midsummer: Woodland Mushroom Pate
In our continuing Scandinavian Midsummer Porch Party menu exploration, this mushroom pâté is relatively simple to make and a favorite of vegetarian guests.
Although they're not often the first thing people consider when thinking of Scandinavian food, wild mushrooms are extremely popular in all the Nordic countries. Foraging is something of a national pastime, and while berries are easier to identify, mushrooms rank high on the list as well. Although in Scandinavia they are normally served in gratins, soups, and as an accompaniment to game meats, mushrooms in summer called for something a little different.
Traditionally pâté is made of finely ground meat and fat - goose liver (a.k.a. fois gras) is the most famous of the pâtés, which of course originate in France (hence the French word), but are common throughout northern Europe. Substituting mushrooms for meat is a common swap, but the same smooth texture is replicated, albeit in a lighter format.
There are lots of mushroom pâté recipes out there, but this is one of the simpler ones. It's based on a skillet dish I invented for a vegetarian friend. The lemon flavor doesn't fade as it often does in dishes, but adds an indefineable tang to the creamy richness.
I recommend a food processor or chopper for this to work well, but with some time and knife skills, you can make due without one.
Mushroom Pâté Recipe
For a more complex flavor, feel free to substitute your favorite wild mushrooms, or a combination of mushrooms. This recipe would also scale up easily if you're feeding a crowd.
1 pint white button mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon wild garlic salt (or regular sea salt)
1/4 cup heavy cream
Clean and coarsely chop the mushrooms, then add to a food processor or chopper. Pulse until the raw mushrooms start to form a paste. Be sure to ensure any large chunks are also finely chopped. If using a knife, just keep chopping until you can get them as fine as possible.
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the mushroom paste all at once. Stir well to combine and let cook until the liquid of the mushrooms cooks out and evaporates. Add the lemon juice and salt and cook until the juice is absorbed by the mushroom paste. Add the heavy cream and cook until absorbed. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold with rye crisps, crackers, or toast.
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Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.
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