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What Is Pâté?
Literally “paste” in French, the word pâté is typically used by English-speakers to refer to two types of chopped-meat dishes: pâté en croûte, which is baked in pastry (like a meat pie) and crustless pâté en terrine, which is made in a special mold called a terrine. Pâtés, as we know them likely, developed in Europe during the Middle Ages: Recipes for pâtés with and without crusts were very popular in medieval European cookbooks.
What Are the Characteristics of Pâté?
Pâtés can have a coarse, chopped texture or a smooth, sieved texture. They’re almost always heavily seasoned, partly because they’re typically served cold. Pâtés can be wrapped in fat, mixed with pistachios or green peppercorns for color and texture, and/or topped with aspic, a clear, savory jelly.
What Type of Meat Is Used to Make Pâté?
Pâté can be made from all types of meat. Pork and veal, which doesn’t have a lot of connective tissue and is a good producer of gelatin, are good choices, but pâté can also be made with wild game such as rabbit, hare, partridge, pheasant, and duck. Pork fat is often ground together with different types of meat, but chicken liver pâté is usually made with chicken livers and schmaltz (chicken fat). Liver patés, such as those made from pork liver, tend to be smoother than those made from other cuts of meat.
How Is Pâté Made?
Methods for preparing pâte will vary depending on the style, but most recipes start by hand-chopping the meat, which is less likely to damage the meats’ existing fat cells. (A meat grinder is also an option, but using a food processor tends to give pâté a mushy texture.)
Once the meat is prepped, it’s mixed with flavorings, such as herbs, spices, garlic, sautéed shallots, wine, cognac, or brandy (such as Armagnac). The mix will sometimes include a panade (a paste made of bread, flour, or rice) or a beaten egg to help bind the meat together.
Once the meat mixture is complete, it’s then transferred to a terrine lined with sheets of fatback or bacon, and cooked in the oven in a water bath (bain-marie), or sous vide, using an immersion circulator.
How Is Pâté Typically Eaten?
Pâté is often sold by the slice and eaten cold; on bread or as part of a charcuterie board with mustard, jam, and pickled vegetables such cornichons; or with a simple vinegary green salad. It can be served as an appetizer alongside a vinegary green salad, or spread on a baguette for lunch, such as in Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches.
4 Variations on Pâté
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Pâté de pâques is a type of pâté en croûte featuring hard-boiled eggs that is served for Easter in Poitou, France.
- Pâté de foie gras is made with the liver of a goose or duck that has been force-fed until reaching a fat content of over 50%. This method, in use since at least 2,500 BCE, creates tiny fat droplets dispersed evenly throughout the liver, giving it a smooth texture and rich flavor.
- Chicken or pork liver mousse has a lighter texture than most pâtés due to the addition of cream or egg whites. Its light texture means that mousse pâtés must be spread on bread, rather than sliced.
- Pâté de campagne, or country pâté, has a coarse, hearty texture. Traditionally made with inexpensive cuts, nowadays pâté de campagne can include fancier ingredients, such as truffles.
- Mushroom pâté, a spreadable vegetarian take on charcuterie, is typically made by pureeing a mix of umami-rich dried or fresh mushrooms.
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