White Christmas has a famous scene about sandwiches. In it, Bing Crosby (playing Bob Wallace) waxes lyrical on the types of women he dreams about when he eats various sandwiches as a bedtime snack. Rosemary Clooney (playing Betty Haynes) teasingly asks him what he dreams about when he eats liverwurst. Bob shudders in response.
I'll be honest - I've never had liverwurst. Some people love it, some people hate it. Maybe someday I'll try it, but my vegetarian friend saved the day. The phrase "lentilwurst" popped into my mind and I decided to run with it.
This recipe is the only one that isn't based on a historical recipe (for obvious reasons), but lentils were around in the 1950s and were used as a vegetarian substitute for meat. This recipe also takes after slightly the infamous vegetarian bean loaves and nut loaves of the late 19th and early 20th century. In fact, one of the recipes I considered for the menu was "Boston Roast," which is a take on meat loaf, only made with beans (hence Boston) instead.
I based my recipe loosely on this one, but with a few tweaks of my own. Here's my version, which you could easily make vegan by using olive oil or butter substitute, and vegan mayonnaise.
Lentilwurst (a.k.a. Vegetarian Liverwurst)
1 cup red lentils
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup butter (half a stick)
1 pint baby bella mushrooms
1 teaspoon dried sage (not ground - use 1/2 teaspoon if using ground)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground mace (can use nutmeg instead)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
In a 2 quart saucepan, bring lentils and water to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until lentils are very soft and have absorbed all water (watch out for boiling over and stir occasionally). Meanwhile, clean and finely mince mushrooms. When the lentils are done, remove to a glass dish to cool. Wash the same saucepan and add the butter and spices. When butter is melted, add mushrooms and cook over medium to medium-low heat until the juices and butter are largely reduced. Mix mushrooms, lentils, and mayonnaise until well combined. Chill in a glass container in the fridge. When ready to serve, slice or spread onto rye bread that has been thinly spread with mustard. Eat open faced or closed.
The lentilwurst sandwiches were the surprise hit of the evening. Everything on the menu was good, but this was so good I was very sad I hadn't made a double batch, and have since gone out and bought more mushrooms precisely so I can make more. The mushrooms and lentils gave it a meaty texture, and the salty, spicy flavors of the seasonings went very well with the rye bread and mustard (traditional liverwurst sandwich ingredients). I did not add onions or pickled onions to the sandwiches as I had considered, but that would be another lovely addition. We gobbled this right up with no regrets.
Do you think lentilwurst goes with White Christmas (1954)? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to follow the White Christmas tag or visit the original menu post for the rest of the White Christmas Dinner and a Movie menu.
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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.