Every other Christmas or so, thinking I will host some large holiday gathering, I get it into my mind to make a pâté de compagne (country pâté). As it’s a rather rustic item, it isn’t terribly complicated but the nuance of flavors has been a challenge for me to perfect. And still I never salt it quite enough.
A pâté is just a variation on a meatloaf – denser, more subtly seasoned. It cannot be made lean; you need the fat for the flavor and texture. When I asked my Parisian born friend and widely acknowledged fantastic cook Martine Arenella to comment on my recipe draft she advised skipping the garlic and the bacon, both of which can overwhelm the flavor, and the addition of flour or bread crumbs to bind the ingredients into a firm loaf. I offer the bacon as an easier option with which to line the pan.
I recommend that you do a little recipe research of your own since the spice options are many – you might add fennel, coriander, parsley, oregano, cayenne, etc. I prefer to make a gluten free pâté, but you can use fine breadcrumbs instead. If you have the inclination and opportunity, it would in incredible to add a layer of foie gras. Leftover pâté makes a wonderful addition to a duck or goose stuffing.
1 cup finely chopped onion (1 large)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled
1T and 1t kosher salt or 2 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 scant teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf – ground
1/2-cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons Cognac or other brandy
1/2 lb chicken, duck or goose livers, trimmed
1 lb ground fatty pork shoulder
1/2 lb ground fatty veal (preferably veal breast)
1/3 c garbanzo bean flour (or substitute 1/3 c finely ground bread crumbs)
Sliced fat back or 12 bacon slices (about 3/4 lb)
Optional: ½ c shelled pistachios
Special equipment: a 6-cup terrine mold or loaf pan; an instant-read thermometer
Needs 8 hours of resting, 2 hours of cooking and 6 hours minimum to chill before serving, preferably 24 hours to flavor to develop. Start your pate 3 days before your event
Assemble and marinate terrine: Cook finely diced onion in butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet, covered, over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add thyme and stir, 1 minute. Remove from heat. While onion cools, measure salt, allspice, nutmeg, and grind the peppercorns and bay leaf in grinder until fine. Add spices to onion mixture and whisk in cream, eggs, and brandy until combined. Pulse chicken livers in a food processor until finely chopped, then add to onion mixture along with ground pork and veal, and mix together well with your hands or a wooden spoon.
Line bottom and long sides of terrine mold crosswise with thinly sliced fat back or about 6 to 9 strips of bacon, arranging them close together (but not overlapping) and leaving a 1/2- to 2-inch overhang. Fill terrine evenly with ground-meat mixture, rapping terrine on counter to compact it (it will mound slightly above edge). Cover top of terrine lengthwise with 2 or 3 more slices of fat back or bacon slices if necessary to cover completely, and fold overhanging ends of bacon back over these. Cover terrine with plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours to marinate meats.
Bake terrine: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Discard plastic wrap and cover terrine tightly with a double layer of foil. Bake terrine in a water bath until thermometer inserted diagonally through foil at least 2 inches into center of terrine registers 155 to 160°F, about 1 3/4 to 2 hours. Remove foil and let terrine stand in mold on a rack, 30 minutes.
Weight terrine: Put terrine in mold in a cleaned baking pan. Put a piece of parchment or wax paper over top of terrine, then place on top of parchment another same-size terrine mold or a piece of wood or heavy cardboard cut to fit inside mold and wrapped in foil. Put 2 to 3 (1-pound) cans on terrine or on wood or cardboard to weight cooked terrine. Chill terrine in pan with the weights, until completely cold at least 24 hours to allow flavors to develop.
To serve: Run a knife around inside edge of terrine to loosen, let mold stand in a pan with 1 inch of hot water for 2 minutes. Tip terrine mold (holding terrine) to drain excess liquid, then invert onto a cutting board. Gently wipe outside of terrine with a paper towel. If you used fatback you can peel off those layers and discard the excess fat. Let chilled terrine stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving, then transfer whole to a platter or cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
Accompaniments: cornichons; whole grain mustard; sliced baguette or crackers
Notes: Terrine can be marinated (before baking) up to 24 hours. Keep terrine wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled, up to 2 weeks. Can be frozen.