Friday, August 21, 2009

Turkey & Mushroom Pate

I love pates, rich ones with foie gras and pistachios and truffles and pheasant and hare - well, maybe not all together. I started making pates a few years ago, and it was hard to get started. There aren't many cookbooks who even address the subject anymore...I guess they're too intimidating, and in some cases, the ingredients a bit scary to most people.

My breakthrough came with Julia Child and Jacques Pepin's cookbook Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home (Knopf, 1999). They have a whole chapter on making country-style pate, with strips of veal, pork, ham, chicken livers, and a forcemeat (the ground up stuff) made of pork. I learned to make the whole thing from scratch, including grinding the pork myself to get the right texture and quantity of fat. It's a long process - it takes over a week to make, because of marinating times before you bake it, and a couple days for the flavors to develop after it's baked. It's a fabulous recipe.

Since conquering that recipe, I've branched out. My friend Nick, a hunter, gave me two pheasant last fall. They promptly became the foundation of my annual holiday pate. I found I had mastered enough of the basics that I could adjust flavors and ingredients to match the delicate flavor of the pheasant. For example, I added juniper berries - a classic pairing with pheasant. It came out beautifully.

I think it's sad more people don't make pates...they're fun, a bit adventurous, and delicious. So, when recently we had some friends over for appetizers, I decided to make a simple pate of ground turkey and forest mushrooms - start to finish in one day - served slightly chilled with toasted bread, olives, shaved parmesiano, and a bit of simple red sauce - not my secret red sauce, so I'll give you the recipe :-). It was yummy.

And here's the real deal on pate: it's just fancy meatloaf, as you'll see from this recipe. So don't be afraid - enter the world of pates! If you're really serious, start with Julia and Jacques' lovely book. If you just want to dabble, try this recipe, then play around with the flavors and ingredients.

Buon appetito!

Turkey & Mushroom Pate
(Serves 8 or more)
1 package of dried forest mushrooms
1 lb. ground turkey, not the super-lean (I buy Jenny-O 7% fat)
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 T corn starch
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. unseasoned bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper

For this recipe, results will be best if you have a terrine mold with hinged sides (look here for an example...I bought mine at Kitchen Window at Hennepin & Lake in Minneapolis). If not, you can use a small loaf pan. In this case, I would recommend lining the bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit.

Re-hydrate the mushrooms by placing them in a small bowl and adding 1/2 cup of hot water. Push the mushrooms down into the water. Let them soak for 30 minutes, turning them over a few times to make sure all are hydrated. Remove the mushrooms from the bowl, squeezing the excess liquid out of them with your hand, taking care to capture the liquid in the bowl. Reserve the soaking liquid.

Meanwhile, saute the shallot and half of the garlic in the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat until soft. Do not allow to brown. Using a very fine-meshed strainer, strain the mushroom soaking liquid into the skillet with the shallots and mushrooms (there will be some sand and dirt in the water from the mushrooms). Slowly reduce the liquid until it is nearly all evaporated, stirring occasionally, and loosening the brown glaze from the sides of the skillet with a spoon or spatula.

While this is going on, mince the mushrooms. First, you need to trim them. Remove any slimy or unpleasantly soft pieces (porcini do not take well to dehydration-rehydration, for instance, and tend to look like gray goo). Also, if any of the mushroom stems are woody and tough, trim them off. Cut large pieces into quarters. Then, using your chef's knife, mince them.

In a large bowl, place the ground turkey. Add the mushrooms and the oil-shallot-garlic-mushroom broth mixture from the skillet. Scrape it clean with a spoon or spatula to get every bit. Mix together. Sprinkle the corn starch all over and mix again. Add all remaining ingredients including the remaining raw garlic and mix again, thoughroughly.

Now, you need to check the salt. I taste the raw mix...I suppose one day I'll die of salmonila poisoning. If you're squeemish (and wiser than me), pinch off a little and fry it, then taste for saltiness. It should be pleasantly salty. Adjust as needed.

Allow the mix to sit and the flavors to develop for a bit. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 275. Oil the terrine mold and press the pate mixture into it. Cover with foil and crimp all around the edges to seal. Find a glass or ceramic baking dish that the terrine will fit into. Place the terrine mold in the baking dish, and add boiling water until it comes 1/2 way up the side of the terrine. Place in the over and bake until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees (use an instant-read digital thermometer - an essential chef's tool!).

Remove the baking dish and terrine from the oven. It's important for the pate to be pressed while it cools. Cut a piece of heavy cardboard to fit on top of the terrine, inside the edges of the mold. Place 2 or 3 soup cans on the cardboard, and something heavy on top of the soup cans, like a bag of flour. Some balancing is required! Allow to cool for about 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, remove the soup cans, cardboard, foil, etc., and use a small, sharp knife to cut around the edges of the terrine. If you have a hinged pan, release the sides, and carefully pry the terrine loose from the bottom, taking care not to break it. If you used a non-hinged mold, carefully pry the terrine out of the mold and remove the parchment. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 2 hours or more.

To serve, unwrap, and using a very sharp knife, cut into 1/4"-thick slices. Arrange on a serving platter with a variety of olives. Serve with sliced bread, shaved parmesian cheese, and bruschetta sauce (see below).

Hotel Davanzati Bruschetta Sauce
This delicious sauce was served during happy hour each evening at the Hotel Davanzati in Florence. They generously share their recipe!

1 lb. red ripe tomatoes (I used high-quality canned whole tomatoes and all of their canning liquid), chopped, with no skin and core removed
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 peperoncino (very similar to dried arbol chiles, which I used)
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 T chopped fresh parsley
salt to taste

Heat the garlic in the olive oil with the peppers until the garlic is soft and not brown. Add tomatoes and cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add the parsley and cook for 2 minutes longer. Salt to taste. Allow to cool (blending hot ingredients can be explosive!). Puree briefly in blender. Serve warm with sliced toasted bread.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Italian Apple Tart with Ice Cream and Balsamic Vinegar

We just got home from a vacation in Europe in which we spent 4 days in Paris, and then nearly 2 weeks traveling from Venice to Florence to Naples & Pompeii to Positano to Rome. One of the highlights was a day trip we took from Florence into the Chianti wine country which lies between Florence and Siena. On that trip, we visited the Montagliari vinyard, a family-owned and operated business that produces primarily Chianti Classico, in addition to Grappa and balsamic vinegar.

There's a restaurant at the vinyard, and the septegenarian matriarch of Montagliari is the chef. Her cooking was the most delicious and comforting we had in Italy. We had a glorious meal on a shaded terrace overlooking the vinyards and the long valley of the Chianti Classico denomination. Our lunch culminated with a warm apple tart topped with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. It was pure heaven...we devoured it.

When we got home, I was determined to reproduce it. This is my's not identical, but it's pretty close. Ahhh, Italia!

A note on balsamic vinegar: This queen of vinegars can range from cheap, watery and sour to syrupy, gloriously sweet-sour and complex. Skip the's not worth buying. The latter form, however, is truly a revelation, and is worth its hefty price - I've paid as much as $30 or $40 for a few ounces of good balsamico. When you get the really good stuff, save it for special dishes like this, use a few drops at a time, and savor its completely unique character with meats, over heirloom tomato wedges, fruits and desserts. Even a small bottle will last a long time.

Italian Apple Tart
(Serves 8)
3 eggs, separated
1/2 c. plus 1 T caster sugar (also called superfine, or baker's sugar)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 T softened unsalted butter (I use Lurpak imported Danish butter for fine baking)
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly-ground nutmeg
1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. corn starch
1 c. apple puree (see below)

Preheat oven to 375. Cut circles of parchment paper to fit in the bottoms of 8 6-oz. ramekins. Place the circles into each of the ramekins, and using 1T of the butter, grease the exposed face of the parchment, plus the sides of the ramekins. Arrange on a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until very creamy. Whisk in the remaining 2T of soft butter. Whisk in the nutmeg. In a separate bowl with a clean whisk, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff (the tiniest bit of yolk will keep whites from stiffening). Fold into the sugar mixture. Sprinkle the flour and corn starch over the batter and fold in, working out any lumps. Fold in the apple puree.

Fill the molds 1/2 way, and bake until just brown on the top and edges and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Rotate the pan half way through baking for evenness.

To serve: unmold while still warm (hold the hot ramekins with a towl) onto warm plates, upside down, by running a thin knife around the sides of the ramekin, then gently prying loose. Remove parchment paper rounds. Top with a smallish scoop of premium vanilla ice cream that is slightly softened, and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar (about a teaspoon per serving). Dust everything and the plate around it with powdered sugar. Elegant comfort food!

Apple Puree
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 Braeburn apple, peeled, cored and diced

Place the apples and 2 T of water into a saucepan, cover tightly, and place over medium-low heat. Cook until very soft, about 25 minutes. Cool. Mash with a fork, not a food processor. It's better with a little texture, rather than baby-food smoothness.

This is also the way I make applesauce. You can use whatever varieties of apples you like best.