Saturday, February 28, 2015

Chicken & Mushroom Pate to Serve with a Pinot Noir

Continuing with my testing of new recipes to pair with the wines I will showcase at this year's Winefest Renaissance, benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Aberdeen Area, yesterday I made Chicken & Mushroom Pate. This will pair with an earthy Pinot Noir from J Vineyards. Once again, the recipe came out splendidly, and just what I hoped, flavor-wise. Gathering ideas of what to use in the making of this appetizer, I selected items from my food and varietal pairing sheets. I wanted to use mushrooms, because what is more earthy than a mushroom? Still, I wanted to pair a meat in there somewhere. Chicken seems to be the dominant meat in this year's food pairings. So far I have 3 dishes with chicken as a part of the whole. 
Pairing list

Looking through the internet, the most common pairing in a mushroom pate is chicken livers. Perhaps chicken livers are a great match. I, however, will not eat liver of any kind. Believe me, it is not that I am blacklisting something I have never tried, either. I have tried chicken liver pate; even made it once myself. I was fed beef liver as a child and hated it then. I made it as an adult and still hated it. So, no liver in my pate!

So what would be good to pair with the mushrooms, I wondered. Since I had already bought boneless, skinless chicken thighs to use in the little Pork & Chicken Sausage patties for the sliders I wrote of a couple of days ago, I felt that chicken thighs, being a dark meat, would be a great pairing with the mushrooms. I do not really care for dark meat from chicken or turkey, but if it is mixed in something I can eat it just fine. Okay then, chicken thigh meat would be used. Looking at the list of foods to pair, I chose Pecorino Romano cheese to add that sharpness to the mix. I used fresh rosemary to perk up flavors even more. 

Chicken Mushroom Pate on Pita Crisps

Recently I created a spice mixture I am calling "Pepperless Piquancy". I love pepper. particularly black Tellicherry peppercorns, freshly ground. Not everyone is quite the pepper fanatic that I am though, so I was thinking about spices that could give a similar "zip" to a dish, but contain no true pepper. I made it up a while ago, but have not posted it here in my blog because I have been judiciously testing and tasting it to see how it works. I used some of this Pepperless Piquancy in my pate. I cannot really taste it as such, but I was really loving the overall flavors. Nothing was jarring or out of place. If you do not have the spices to mix a batch of my Pepperless Piquancy to try out in this appetizer, just substitute ground pepper; even better if the Gourmet Blend sort. If looking at the Pepperless Piquancy recipe below and you note that the main ingredient is pink peppercorns, understand that pink peppercorns are not related to pepper at all, but because they resemble pepper and have a certain pepper-like sharp fruitiness, they are included in pepper blends.

Pepperless Piquancy

makes almost 1/4 cup

1 1/2 tablespoons pink peppercorns
1 tablespoon Szechuan "pepper"
1 1/2 teaspoons Grains of Paradise
1/2 tablespoons ground ginger

Toast the first three ingredients in a hot, dry skillet until they are very fragrant. Pour them out onto a plate to cool, then grind them to a powder in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Stir in the ground ginger. Store the mixture in a jar with tight fitting lid in a cool dark place.

I also used a teaspoon of black cardamom seeds, going on what our friend Rich suggested when he first smelled their smoky aroma. He felt the black cardamom would pair well with mushrooms, and it truly does. Again, not everyone will have black cardamom in their spice rack, so this is optional. If looking for the smoky quality to substitute in this appetizer, I suggest smoked paprika. Use 1/2 teaspoon, taste and add another if it is not yet of the smoky flavor you want.

Down to the Basics

Okay, I now had a creditable list of food items I wanted to use in the making of this Chicken Mushroom Pate. I debated adding some dried mushrooms but left that out. Just another step, when there is already much to do. One thing I truly meant to do was add some toasted walnuts. Unfortunately I completely forgot! Another thing I absolutely wanted to do was deglaze the pan, after cooking either the mushrooms or the chicken. I like to add wine and let it completely evaporate. It gives such great flavor intensity. Mushrooms and chicken can be bland. I was looking for ways to punch up the flavor. I had some dry Prosecco in the fridge, so I used that. Any dry white wine would do well in this instance.

Now that I had an idea of how to make the Chicken Mushroom Pate, I also had to decide what to serve the pate ON. I thought long on this aspect. My sister in law suggested using the little bagel chips. Some bagel chips I have seen are very tiny, and I was unsure how this would work. I did like the idea of using something crisp, in contrast to the soft texture of the pate. I popped over to the local grocery yesterday and picked up a pack each of Bagel Chips and also Pita Crisps. Turns out that the bagel chips are so hard and crunchy, it makes it impossible to take a bite. Either you stuff your face with the whole thing, or it crumbles and breaks. Okay, nix the bagel chips. The Pita Crisps however, were perfect. I felt like I had found Mama Bear's Chair - it was just right. They are thinner, yet have enough strength to hold the pate. It is easy to take a bite and still have the remainder stay whole. Bingo.
One serving of Chicken Mushroom Pate, to pair with a sampling of Pinot Noir

This pate is perfect to serve in a bowl with a little spreader. Since I am using this to pair with a Pinot Noir at a wine tasting event, I am serving two little pita crisps with a little scoop of pate on each as one portion. Measured out, this recipe made 68 scoops (about 1 tablespoon each), or 34 servings.

Chicken Mushroom Pate

34 servings
Chicken Mushroom Pate on Pita Crisps

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, well trimmed
1 teaspoon Pepperless Piquancy, or ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon salt
2 - 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion (about 6 - 6 1/2 ounces), finely chopped
1 pound mushrooms (I used Baby Bellas), sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black cardamom seeds, ground, optional
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
2/3 cup champagne or dry white wine

more olive oil, for frying the chicken
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 ounces (1 cup grated) Pecorino Romano cheese 
1/2 cup heavy cream, divided
parsley leaves, for garnish

First, make sure the chicken is well trimmed of fat and cut into small pieces, none larger than 1-inch. Sprinkle on the Pepperless Piquancy, salt and the minced garlic and mix together well. Set this aside while preparing the mushroom mixture.

mushrooms releasing liquid  |  liquid cooked out  |  wine added  |  wine evaporated  |  chicken well browned
Heat a large skillet, preferably nonstick, and add in the butter and tablespoon of olive oil. Once melted, add the minced onion and lower heat to medium low, cooking the onion very slowly, about 8 minutes, until softened and golden. Add the mushrooms to the onions in the pan and raise the heat to medium high. It will seem a lot at first, but they will cook down quickly. Add in the 1/2 teaspoon salt, black cardamom, if using. Cook, stirring for 15 to 18 minutes, until all the liquid that releases from the mushrooms is cooked out, and the  mushrooms are golden brown. Add in the rosemary and the champagne and cook quickly, stirring, until all the wine has evaporated, 5 to 8 minutes. Pour this mixture into a large bowl to cool. 

Before and after processing the mixture
Return the skillet to the heat and add in a little more olive oil. Pour in the chicken mixture and cook on medium high, tossing continually to brown evenly and cook the meat through, about 6 to 8 minutes. Once meat is cooked through, add to the bowl with the mushrooms. Add in the parsley. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. 

Once cooled, add the Pecorino and mix. Using a food processor, process the mixture very fine in two batches. During this process, add in half the heavy cream to each batch being processed. Remove to a bowl and mix well. This can be made 1 or 2 days in advance. The mixture can also be frozen until needed. Thaw completely before using.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.