It’s long past New Year’s and I’m not into resolutions, but I was inspired over the holidays to try my hand at more charcuterie and I’ve decided that trend will continue into 2019 as part of my weekend kitchen routine. The sausages we made over the break (more on that in a bit) were not the first bit of salted meat I attempted and my first foray into this exciting new realm of grinders and guts was quite a hit at our holiday table.
Call it pâté, terrine or fancy meatloaf the concept of salted, pressed, finely ground fat, flesh and offal that is shaped into a mold then slow cooked and served cold is about as old as the concept of “cuisine” itself. If you didn’t pick up the accent, this dish is French, unapologetically oldschool French in the same way that quail with grapes or veal tripe in white sauce is. The process has been streamlined since the days of Grandfather Escoffier, but it’s still got that that slightly fussy way about it that both makes it a joy to execute and a hell of a story for your guests when you drop it on the table.
Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s tome Charcuterie was the guide I used to go from complete novice to no-fail pâté master in a couple days of mucking about. I started with the recipe for Pâté de Campagne which is wonderfully flavourful yet forgiving; what the French would label a “most rustic” of terrines. With only a couple of little alterations (seriously, who keeps brandy around nowadays?) I was banging out loaf pans full of great, simple pâté.
Here’s what I learned early on:
- Use really good ingredients – This kind of food is for celebrations and big groups. Spend lavishly!
- Keep everything clean – There will be a lot of fat and blood and bits all over your workspace that can contaminate your final product. Clean as you go!
- Keep everything cold – When fat is heated, even just a tad it begins to liquefy and this can cause your pâté to “break”. To avoid this ice your bowls and keep anything not currently being processed in the fridge.
- Keep Seasoning – A pâté will be served cold, which will naturally dull its flavour so don’t be afraid to really season the hell out of your meat. If you think you’ve gone too far just heat up a bit of your mix in a pan and taste it… Then add more!
The process is a two-day affair after taking into account the meat processing, seasoning, grinding, shaping etc. With the previous advice in the back of your brain and this solid Ruhlman recipe you’ll do great and be rewarded with some transcendental charcuterie. So set aside a holiday or rainy weekend indoors, pour a glass of good French wine, roll up your sleeves and get messy.
Pork and Chicken Liver Pâté (Makes 2 medium-sized loaf pans full)
- 2 lbs (1 kg) Boneless Pork Shoulder (chopped into 1 inch cubes)
- 4 oz. (100g) Chicken liver (roughly chopped)
- ¼ cup (50g) White onion (finely diced)
- 8 Tbls. (48g) Fresh Parsley (chopped)
- 2 Tbls. (30g) Fresh Thyme (chopped)
- 1 ½ Tbls. (24g) Garlic (minced)
- 1 oz. (25g) Kosher Salt
- 1 ½ Tbls. (30g) Pickled Green Peppercorns
- A Generous Pinch each of Dried Cloves, Nutmeg, Ginger Coriander, Cinnamon and White Pepper (This is called “Pâté Espice”)
- 2 Tbls. (20g) All Purpose Flour
- 2 Large Eggs
- 2 Tbls. (30ml) White Wine
- ½ Cup (125ml) Heavy Cream
- 12 Rashers of thick-cut Bacon
Method (Get out your mixer and meat grinder then fire your oven up to 150˚C/300˚F)
- Grind three quarters of the pork shoulder through a coarse grinder into an iced bowl and refrigerate immediately. Clean the sinew off the blade and feed the remaining pork shoulder as well as alternating handfuls of the liver, onions, herbs and garlic through a fine grinder into another bowl along with all the liquid and bits that will inevitably pour out as well. Mix the fine stuff into the coarse stuff and season with the salt, peppercorns and pâté espice then refrigerate the whole mess. This stage is known as the “primary binding”.
- In a separate bowl whisk up the flour, eggs, wine and cream into what fancy chefs call the “panade” which is basically a binding agent for the meat. Hook up the paddle on your mixer, fit a nice big mixing bowl in and put a wide bowl full of ice underneath it. Dump the whole meat mixture into the mixing bowl along with the panade and fire up the mix on low speed for about a minute or so. The mixture should look a little smoother and much shinier.
- Toss a bit of the mix into a hot pan and cook it a bit to check the seasoning then adjust as necessary.
- Line a 1 ½ quart (1 ½ L) loaf pan with overlapping pieces of bacon, leaving enough to overhang the edges by about two inches. Pour in the meat mixture and pack it down to remove any air pockets hiding deep in the mix. Wrap the overhanging bacon over top of the meat and cover with foil. Leave the loaf pan out on the counter for twenty minutes to let the whole shebang settle.
- Pour half a liter of hot water into a high sided roasting pan that is large enough to house your smaller loaf pan. Place the loaf pan in and the water should reach up halfway to its lip. Carefully place the two pans and their little ocean of water in the pre-heated oven and bake until the interior of the pate reaches 150˚F/65˚C, approximately an hour and a half.
- Remove the two pans from the oven. Carefully fish the loaf pan out of the (now very) hot water and set it aside. Pour out the water and place the loaf pan back into the larger pan. Carefully weigh down the cooked pâté by placing a similar-sized loaf pan with something heavy in it on top. I grabbed a spare brick from outside, wrap it in tinfoil and dropped it on and it worked very well. Whatever you use to compress the pâté be careful! Hot fat will spurt out the sides, which is why we placed it back in the larger pan. Let the pâté cool at room temperature then pop it into the fridge overnight with the weight on it.
- Next day, remove the weight and foil and carefully remove your sexy meatloaf from the loaf pan. Scrape off any additional fat that clings to the surface. Slice and serve with bread and pickles or portion and refrigerate for up to a week.
Music To Make Fancy Meatloaf To:
Church Of the Cosmic Skull – Science Fiction