This pâté isn't difficult to make and you'll be proud of the results. But there are a few steps to keep track of so be sure to read the recipe over before you start. You'll need a 6 to 8 cup terrine or a narrow (10- x 4-inch) bread pan.
The Leek and Walnut Topping:
1. Cover the dried porcini with 1-1/2 cups warm water and set aside to soak. Meanwhile, clean and slice the leeks and mushrooms. Butter the pan for the pâté, then line it with parchment or wax paper, including the ends, and butter again. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Returning to the mushrooms, lift the porcini from the water, gently squeeze them dry, then chop them. Carefully decant the liquid into a small saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer until only 2 tablespoons remain.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a wide skillet. Add the leeks, garlic, and walnuts and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and transfer to a blender jar.
3. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter in the same skillet over fairly high heat. When the butter foams, add 3/4 of the regular mushrooms and a pinch of the thyme. Sauté until they begin to color, after a few minutes. Add these to the blender. Melt another 2 tablespoons and repeat with the remaining regular mushrooms, shiitake, and chopped porcini, and a pinch of thyme. Set aside.
4. Add the eggs and cream to the blender jar, then puree until the mixture is completely smooth. Pour the mixture into bowl and fold in the reserved sautéed mushrooms, remaining thyme, the reduced mushroom water, bread crumbs, lemon juice, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and several twists of the peppermill.
5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and cover the top tightly with aluminum foil. Set it in a baking pan and add hot water to come half-way up the sides. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. It will be browned on top and starting to pull away from the sides. Remove and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 6 hours, but allow it to return to room temperature before serving.
6. To serve, gently pull at the paper lining to ease the pate from the sides of the pan, or run a hot knife along the edges. Set a platter over the pÃ¢tÃ©, then invert. Ease the pan off the pâté, then peel off the paper. Any rough looking spots can be smoothed with a hot knife. Prepare the leek-walnut topping and spoon it over the top just before serving. Serve with crackers, thin toast, or fresh bread that has plenty of character.
The Leek and Walnut Topping
1. Melt half the butter in a medium skillet over fairly high heat. When foamy, add the walnuts and cook until they begin to color a little, about 3 minutes. Remove them to a bowl and set aside.
2. Return the skillet to the stove, reduce the heat to medium. Add the remaining butter, the leeks, and a few pinches of salt. Cook until the leeks are softened and bright green, then add the wine and simmer until the leeks are tender and the pan is dry. Season with salt and plenty of pepper, then stir in the walnuts and the parsley. Spoon this mixture over the pâté just before serving.
What happens when you pair two chefs and a card-carrying chemist? Ari Daniel was invited into the kitchen of Kimball House to observe.