The Dish | Faux Gras

This vegetarian appetizer for the holidays is packed with flavor. I like to put the paté out in a decorative bowl with cute spreader, and the jelly out in another bowl with a spoon, gently chopped up with a knife into beautiful little jelly shards, with a platter of crackers or toasted bread squares alongside, for a make-your-own one-bite experience.

There is so much flavor here, it’s best to keep the crackers or bread fairly plain, but you can also max out on flavor with something like a rustic whole wheat walnut bread. If you want to get more fancy, you can serve the bites ready-made, spreading or piping the paté onto the toasts and then topping with cubes of jelly (score them in the pan). 



  • 1/2 cup dry green lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ ounce dried mushrooms
  • 10 shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 ½ tablespoons butter salted or unsalted
  • 1 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • ¼ cup toasted walnuts
  • ¼ cup toasted cashews
  • ¾ tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons mellow white miso
  • 2 teaspoons tightly packed fresh rosemary needles
  • 1 tablespoon tightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon brown sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Several grinds freshly ground black pepper

Sherry jelly

  • ½ cup medium sherry
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon agar powder
  1. Cook lentils with thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Rinse the lentils well. Place them in a large saucepan, and over them by 3 inches with water. Add the bay leaf and 3 sprigs of fresh thyme (reserving the rest for the pate itself). Bring the lentils to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and add the salt. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, adding more water if the pan becomes dry, until the lentils are very tender. You should have about 2 cups of cooked lentils.
  1. Soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water to cover. Separate the thyme leaves off the remaining sprigs and set the leaves aside. Wipe the mushrooms clean and remove the stems. Slice them thinly.
  1. Heat the butter in a wide saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until they become translucent, 5-7 minutes. You won’t have to worry about them browning with so much butter in the pan, they’ll almost poach (and that butter will add the needed richness to the final product. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften and release liquid, 4-5 minutes. Add the sherry and cook another 4-5 minutes until the mushrooms are very soft and some of the liquid has evaporated (the pan will still be very moist). Remove from heat.
  1. Drain the dried mushrooms, reserving the soaking water. Place the cooked lentils, cooked mushroom mixture, rehydrated dried mushrooms, nuts, vinegar, soy sauce, miso, rosemary, thyme leaves, parsley, brown sugar, cayenne, salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until completely smooth, adding a bit of mushroom soaking water at a time as needed for a smooth consistency. Taste, and add salt, pepper, and additional cognac, soy sauce, or lemon juice, if it needs balancing.
  1. Place the paté in a small tightly covered container to refrigerate for at least a few hours to allow it to set up, or up to 4 days in the refrigerator or 2 months in the freezer. 
  1. Make the sherry jelly. Add the sherry to a small saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the agar agar powder on top, and whisky in. Continue whisking as the sherry heats a low boil; allow it to boil for 1-2 minutes. Pour into a small, square baking dish (roughly 5×5”), and place in the refrigerator to set up. It should only take about 15-20 minutes to reach a giggly consistency. 

Reprinted with permission from Stone Pier Press

This recipe will appear in my forthcoming What’s for Dinner: Plant-rich feasts for any occasion, available for pre-order now. The book is the first volume in an eco-cooking series, meeting the dinner challenge with a set of full-bodied, vegan and vegetarian entrées, plus plant-based starters, sides and desserts, meant to anchor celebratory meals.

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