march 15, 2013
When I have a taste for snacks, I think spreads, dips and what Sheila Lukins, the late, great cookbook author of The Silver Palate series, refers to as “slathers”, as in something savory you can generously slather onto flatbread, croutons or thin slices of English cucumber.
Easter reminds me of ham, and ham recalls a recipe in Gourmet Magazine years ago for leftover Easter ham finely minced and enlivened with coarse grain mustard. Passover makes me think of chopped liver, rich with chicken fat and flecked with bits of hard cooked egg. Both holidays approach, and in my quest to eat less meat overall and extoll the virtues of vegetables, I came up with this herbed mushroom spread which has a “meaty” vibe and will please the palate spectrum.
I envision this aromatic paste put to use as an all purpose slather for crisp breads and vegetables, paired with cheeses and charcuterie, dotted across pizza crusts, tossed warm into pastas and gently incorporated into soft creamy scrambled eggs.
If you care to mitigate the assertive umami of the mushrooms, consider lightening the paste by folding in soft cream cheese or sour cream. The former would render this as a perfectly serviceable vegetable pate, and the latter would craft a tangy dip for crudites and pita crisps. Imagine adding a nuance of sweet-sour by pairing the spread with spicy apple chutney or green tomato chutney.
For creaminess, I added two hard boiled eggs which lighten and fluff. My eggs came from Harmony Hill Farm, purchased at my local market Little House Green Grocery. The yolks are richer and the taste superior. Fresh pastured eggs are not as old as supermarket eggs, and the shell may adhere when you peel them (older eggs develop an air pocket which helps the shell slip off easily); I find that adding a dash of apple cider vinegar to the cooking water helps with shell removal, as does cracking the cooked eggs against the edge of the pan, and immersing them in cold water for a bit until they cool down. The best method for large eggs is lowering the room temperature eggs into boiling water, then after bringing the water back to boil, decrease the heat and simmer for fourteen minutes.
This spread keeps up to a week in the refrigerator. Possibilities seem endless for its employment. What are your ideas for its place at the table?
herbed mushroom spread
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes 1 3/4 cups
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
2 T unsalted butter
scant 1/4 t fine sea salt
1 t finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
pinch finely ground white pepper
1 large garlic clove, finely grated
1 pound white (button) mushrooms, chopped fine*
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T sherry ( I like Savory and James amontillado)
*cook’s note: a food processor is handy for finely chopping the mushrooms
- In heavy medium saute pan, cook onion with salt, butter and thyme over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and soft, 8-10 minutes.
- Add garlic and mushrooms, and increase heat to medium high; after about 5 minutes, the mushrooms will begin to render their juices; add lemon juice and sherry.
- Stir occasionally over medium high heat, until mixture appears pasty and almost all liquid has evaporated; guard against scorching.
- Cool to room temperature.
- Process mixture in bowl of large food processor with hard boiled egg until smooth and creamy, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- Chill at least several hours to develop flavor.