Last weekend, we decided to make pâté with a friend of ours, figuring that he wouldn’t be scooged out by the procedure, since he’s french and would therefore understand the desired result, even if we failed to achieve it.

Our idea had been to make the pâté — what our cookbook charmingly calls “The Cinderella Meat Loaf” — and then eat it, which was, to put it mildly, crazy. Pâté is not something you whip up on the spur of the moment, but like all good cooking projects, it started with a martini and ended with a trashed kitchen.

We made pâté de campagne, a rustic mold of meat that includes chunks of pork as well as the usual forcemeat puree. For the uninitiated, a forcemeat is a suspension of meat and fat that makes for a smooth end product, such as a hot dog, or bologna. A key part of getting a forcemeat to stay together during the cooking period is to keep everything, including your bowls, cold.

Basically, we made three mixtures:

  • boneless pork shoulder pureed with chicken liver, onion, and spices in the food processor, then mixed by hand with coarsely chopped pork. Since we had a lean pork shoulder, we pureed some pork fat in with it.
  • a “panade” of cream, brandy, flour, and eggs
  • chicken livers marinated in brandy — this wasn’t in the recipe, but we wanted to use them up.

We combined the panade and the meat mixture and stirred it until it was thick and sticky, as sign that the myosin protein had developed in the meat, which helps hold the pate together. Then it was time to assemble.

We laid half the puree down into a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap, or rather, I did, because by this point one of my soux-chefs had cut through his thumbnail with a very sharp cleaver while dicing pork. Perhaps chopping before the martinis next time. Then, a layer of chicken livers. And what the hey — some dried shiitake mushrooms that we’re never going to get rid of from the pantry — then, the rest of the meat puree.

The loaf pan was then gently cooked in a mold surrounded by hot water, and weighted down with another loaf pan with cans on top of it. After a day in the fridge, we delivered half of the loaf to our cohort at his house.

The result: It had that undefinable pate flavor. The livery parts were nice and smooth, though next time I’d use the recommended pork liver to see if it tastes less strong. Perhaps a touch less pate spice (a mixture of cloves, nutmeg, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, and pepper ) next time, and a touch less brandy, but the flavors did meld into a delicious, forceful, smooth whole. It wasn’t hard to make, just annoying to keep all the ingredients cold. Definitely a repeatable experiment.

Next up in the Charcuterie adventures: home-made corned beef, a project we’ve long talked about. The pink salt has arrived in the mail, so it’s time.

My First Pâté
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2 thoughts on “My First Pâté

  • January 22, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    That sounds delicious. My mother used to make pork liver pate but I’ve only made the simple chicken or turkey liver pates, which are really simple – saute the livers in some butter until cooked, season with salt and pepper, add brandy and pop in the blender, or run through a food mill which makes for a nicer texture.

  • January 22, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Oooh. That sounds delicious too, and much simpler.

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