Back when gourmet dining meant French food, and The French Chef was our sole culinary media star, making pate from scratch, along with whipping up a souffle and baking a crusty baguette, were considered the marks of an accomplished home cook.

Led by Julia Child's enthusiasm for classic French cooking, the pate we learned to make was the typical Gallic, garlic-loaded pate de campagne of ground pork and veal, studded with ground pork fat. Even pates made with duck and wild game relied on fat to help bind them.

Fortunately, around the time we were learning about the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease, and began to categorize this kind of rich food as "a heart attack on a plate," a new generation of French chefs converted us to Nouvelle Cuisine. Considered revolutionary, this new way of cooking featuring elegant dishes made with less fat and lighter ingredients, overall. Admittedly, sometimes this simply meant substituting heavy cream or butter for other animal fats, but among their lasting inspirations are truly enlightened patas.

For cooks wanting to impress, the Nouvelle masters taught us to make complex and ethereal seafood patas, or one made from a combination of vegetable purees and fromage frais, a yogurt-like fresh cheese, assembled in colorful layers. Using egg whites as the binder made these patas low in fat.

Today, along with reducing fat, we also want to cut down on the time spent cooking. The Turkey Pata below meets both requirements. It features the full, earthy flavor of mushrooms along with the garlic, thyme and nutmeg used in French patas. Preparing it is artfully simple. The secret is using reduced-fat cream cheese, which binds together sauteed vegetables and ground turkey breast. Packed into a loaf pan and chilled, the mixture makes a moist pate that can be sliced and served as an hors d'oeuvres, a first course, or a light meal. Cornichons, the sharp little pickles served with French pates, are a perfect accompaniment.

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Turkey Pate

Makes 8 servings.

  • Canola oil spray
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 large Portobello mushrooms, stemmed, gills removed, and finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. dried thyme
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey breast
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot red pepper sauce, to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Coat a medium non-stick skillet generously with cooking spray. Set it over medium-high heat. Add chopped vegetables and saute until moist. Mix in oregano, thyme and nutmeg. Cook until mixture is dry, 8-10 minutes, stirring to avoid sticking. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Wipe out the pan and again, spray the pan generously.
  2. Return the pan to the heat. Add the turkey. Cook until it turns white, 5 minutes, using a spoon to break it up. Do not let it color or dry out. Transfer to a food processor or blender. Add the apple. Process until finely ground. Transfer to the bowl of vegetables.
  3. Add the cream cheese, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Mix until thoroughly combined and creamy. Season to taste with hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper.
  4. To serve as a pate, line an 8 1/2-inch x 4 1/2-inch x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan with a 15-inch piece of plastic wrap, letting it hang over the two long sides. Pack in the mixture, cover with the plastic wrap and chill 4-24 hours, unmold and slice to serve. To serve as a spread, transfer the pate to a decorative serving bowl, cover, refrigerate for at least 1 hour and serve with crackers.

Per Serving:
116 calories,
5 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat),
6 g. carbohydrate,
11 g. protein,
1 g. dietary fiber,
123 mg. sodium