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Your Pâté Wisdom

I'm on a pâté-making kick and would like advice:

1. What meat ingredients do you include in your pâtés, and why? What do you exclude, and why? Some suggest (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/747947) that pork liver has the most flavor of the livers; I love chicken liver and duck liver. Is there a reason lamb liver isn't frequently used? Ground pork or veal seems to lend a more hearty, less mousse-like texture; any other observations?

2. What non-meat ingredients do you use? I just made a chicken liver pâté with sweet vermouth and fresh thyme (awesome) and one with whiskey and fresh guava (pretty good); other inclusions? For my next one, I'm thinking dried blueberries and/or ground pistachios. Cream - yes/no? Butter v. duck fat v. pork fat v. something else?

3. Cooking methods - any wisdom on how these affect the final product? I like the result with sauteed livers in lots of fat ground in a food processor and then chilled, but I see some recipes call for boiling or stewing livers, or even not pre-cooking the meat and steaming the raw final product in a ramekin like a custard (I've done this once with a duck liver terrine).

4. If you don't do bread, how do you eat it? We have been going with the "eat it straight off a spoon" method, but I wonder what toast substitutes folks have had success with - sliced radishes, perhaps?

And any other advice/recipes would be welcome! Thanks.

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  1. Fish terrines are (relatively) easy to do and very nice in summer. While in Tadoussac (Quebec), I've seen them served with thinly sliced crusty bread, very crispy fried smelt, and quick-pickled radishes and cukes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pinehurst

      I didn't even think of fish! That opens up a whole area of study.

    2. Although it surprised me, I've found that for chicken liver pâté we like the result of poaching the livers in a sort of court-bouillon or even just water with spices and then removing them with a slotted spoon and blending with butter rather than just sauteeing them with butter.

      Also a pinch of extra salt is always a good idea when tasting freshly made pâté because we perceive less salt when something is chilled.

      Recently I've been enjoying topping the pâtés with alcohol gelatins instead of just the usual melted butter. Sherry gelatin and champagne gelatin are nice.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Klunco

        Definitely will try poaching livers. And I love making gelatins from feet but never have an excuse! Great suggestions.

      2. 1 & 3. I only make one terrine - http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/ma...

        4. Knife & fork. Something sharp on the plate - like cornichons. Something sweet - like a chutney. Bread as well, of course.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Harters

          what Harters said - especially on the cornichons.

          1. re: sunshine842

            FWIW, sunshine, the recipe on the link I gave comes out very like a classic pate de campagne. Nice and solid.

            1. re: Harters

              Thanks, Harters -- my only issue is that there's not enough of us to eat a huge bowl of terrine! I've been thinking about making it for a party, though.

              (that , and the traiteur down the street makes divine pate...)

              1. re: sunshine842

                Same issue here (not the traiteur - you're soooo lucky). I make it 2 or 3 times a year and slice it in serving portions and freeze it. Seems to be OK.

                1. re: Harters

                  You're not helping....here I was justifying why I should just buy it down the street, and you come along and give me a reason why I should make my own.



                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Who said this food thing was easy?

                    1. re: Harters

                      I've been harboring a secret yen, too -- every store that sells pate sells the empty earthenware bowls for a song (2-3 euros) and I have this bizarre urge to own one....but I keep saying no, because I don't really have anywhere to put one, and I don't make pate....

                      ....I'm going to have to work harder at my justifying.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        Between calls to duty,I store two of mine on the floor as dog and cat water bowls.

            2. re: sunshine842

              This gives me a lot to work with. I like the theory (sharp, sweet) and the specifics (cornichons, chutney).

              1. re: Sarah Perry

                My current favourite are pickled damsons which very nicely manage sweet and sharp at the same time.

                1. re: Harters

                  you could also go really uptown and put pickle on it! Chunky, please, for the crunchy bits.

          2. In a restaurant I once had a pâté made with veal sweetbreads, and it was nice and creamy in texture. I love sweetbreads, and when I braise them they turn out creamy too, so, wanting to replicate the restaurant experience, I puréed them with the cream-based sauce I always make, but I lost the creamy texture. Any idea why?

            With pâté I like a white baguette or plain crackers, together with Harters' (or is that Harters's?) aforementioned appropriate accompaniments.

            Don't forget the wine. I usually like a dry white like a Sauvignon Blanc.

            There is a place in the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec that makes a "pâté" consisting of a mousseline of scallops that is very nice.

            1. SP,

              In my household, there are two kinds of 'pate'; first, is smooth mousse-type or creamy ones, served from a ramekin which are spread with a cocktail knife on bread, apples, etc. These are usually chicken liver or pork and chicken liver iif I can find pork liver (hard to come by in SEA).

              Second type, would be a rough 'country' pate or loaf. Essentially a fatty meatloaf, but fancier:)

              I like a mix of liver, ground pork/veal, sometimes bacon or pork belly ground in for the right fat ratio. If I am making a whole loaf like this - which serves quite a lot, I tend to add in 'garnish' such as dotted with whole pistachios, jullienned ham strips, poached leek strips; stuff like that so that the cut slices are very pretty and extra tasty.

              Any kind of loaf or mousse has wine and/or cognac, brandy, etc. in it. Favorite spices include fresh thyme, bay leaves, juniper, fresh nutmeg (go easy!), and plenty of salt and pepper.

              This is a nice country pate: http://www.publicradio.org/columns/sp...

              1. Most bases seem to have been covered, but my contribution is that I think pates are greatly improved by a few days (3 or 4, maybe) in the fridge after making. I'm unsure on how long they last under a butter seal though. Commercially bought ones have surprisingly long use-by dates here in the UK.

                1. Joan Nathan's book Jewish Cooking in America has a chopped chicken liver recipe that I use. Because of a high cholesterol problem, I only make the pate about twice a year. The upside of this situation is that I never get tired of eating the stuff.

                  1. Following on from gingershelley's excellent post, I make country-style pates or terrines. Mostly I make a quite simple one which I describe in the first link below (very old post I notice). I have on several occasions made the superb duck terrine out of James Peterson's Glorious French Food. Incredibly labor-intensive but worth it. That is the second link. And I thoroughly agree with Robin Joy that for that type of pate, aging a few days makes a HUGE difference. We normally can only force ourselves to wait 2 days but those times when something comes up and it turns out to be 3 or 4, you really can tell the difference. And, I find that unbaked pates of the country-style sort freeze exceedingly well, then thaw and bake as normal. So I normally divide my recipe into 3 small terrines, bake one and freeze the other two. You can change up the garniture for all three that way too, so I might put pistachios and currants in one, pistachios and ham strips in another, and brandy-soaked cut-up dried apricots in the third, something like that. As gingershelley says, it does make them pretty when sliced. And to reiterate Harters and sunshine, cornichons are an absolute must!!!


                    Duck terrine recipe in Google books: http://books.google.com/books?id=EWSV...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: GretchenS

                      GretchenS...thank you for the reference to James Peterson's Duck Terrine. I am in the middle of making! Yesterday made the stock, marinated the fatback and duck breast...ready to go today making the forcemeat. Any advice? (Had the cookbook stuck away in a corner.) Have caul fat...