A while back I was grousing about not having any hand-me-downs from the kitchens of my mother or grandmothers. It was a Big Lie. I forgot that I had my mother's Le Creuset terrine, with lid, in the good old flame color. The reason I forgot about it was that I can't remember her ever using it, and I hadn't ever used it either.
So it's not the well-seasoned-cast-iron-used-it-daily sort of memento. I'm not even sure why I saved it. My brother and I were getting Mum's discarded stuff ready for the Goodwill, while we were helping her move into her assisted living apartment. I really like the few enameled cast iron pieces I have, and they are awfully expensive. So despite its lack of obvious utility, I took it home, and put it atop the fridge to gather dust.
I am glad I did, as it is, of course, the very thing for pate, my most recent timid venture in Charcuterie, brought on by the Ruhlman/ Polcyn book of the same name. Following years of idle knick-knackhood, the terrine is beginning its useful life. What remained of my first project- the ginger sage breakfast sausage, is now residing in my freezer, sliced into convenient disks. I braced myself for something a little more daunting. This pate grandmere stuff is a simple liver and pork pate (I used chicken livers), without any internal garnishes and other complications.
It was not all that hard-the grinding was the only wearysome aspect, and while it is not flashy to look at, it is very, very good. It will be coming to lunch with me all week, along with crusty bread, pickles and salad. And I'm going to try freezing part of it. Even though it will last a week, well-wrapped in the fridge, and even though I'm going to have it for lunch everyday, it's far too much pate for me. I made the recipe in the original size, which does just fit my pretty terrine (which holds 1 1/2 qts.), but this is rich stuff. If I were making it for a starter for a party, I still wouldn't need this much. In the end, I may just have to get a smaller terrine. Maybe Santa or a Santa-substitute will bring me one of those little french white porcelain numbers?
If you would like to make pate, you will need a meat grinder. I recently got a grinder attachment for my Kitchenaid with a birthday certificate, and it is dandy. A nice heavy metal unmotorized one would be fine, too. A fancy terrine is not required-you can use a pyrex loaf pan, covered with foil, instead. A instant read thermometer, however, is a must.
Ruhlman and Polcyn strongly admonish the pate maker to keep everything as cold as possible. This is to keep the fat from melting and separating, which would spoil the texture of your pate and also look miserable. Rather as with puff pastry, it is a good idea to keep equipment in the freezer, and ingredients cold. If things are warming up too much (the mixer's motor can heat up fast), pop everything in the fridge awhile, to cool it before proceeding.
If you are interested in trying this too, in the variant I made, you will need:
chicken livers 1 1/4 lbs.
pork butt, diced 1 lb.
salt 2 tbsps or to taste
freshly ground black pepper 1 tsp
thyme 2 sprigs
bay leaves 2
veg oil 2 tbsps
shallots, chopped 1/4 cup
brandy 2 tbsps
white bread, crust removed, torn up 2 slices
milk 1/2 cup
cream 1/4 cup
eggs 2 large
parsley, chopped 1 tbsp
ground white pepper 1/4 tsp
freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 tsp
The night before you make the pate, put the chicken livers and cubed pork in separate bowls. Toss each with half the salt, pepper, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and refrigerate. Chill the meat grinder and the bowl from your stand mixer in the freezer, or on the porch, if it is very cold outside.
The next day, preheat the oven to 300F. If you plan to serve directly from the terrine, as I did, you don't have to line it.
In a big pan, heat the veg oil til nearly smoking. Add the chicken livers in a single layer, and give them a nice charring, so they are well firmed up.Remove livers, and chill. Add shallots to pan and cook briefly,add brandy and degrease the pan, scraping up all the bits. Put brandy/shallot mix in fridge to chill. When all is chilled make the "panade"-blend the bread, milk, cream and eggs together.
Mix the pork, livers, shallots and brandy together with the panade, and put them through the fine disc of the grinder. If you have chilled your mixer bowl, you can set it in a pan of ice cubes, and let the ground pate fall into this chilled bowl. Put the bowl on the mixer, attach the paddle, and mix on medium speed for about 60 seconds, until all is blended. Cook a bit gently to test for seasoning. It will be less flavorful when cold, so make sure there is enough salt and pepper. I erred slightly on the side of underseasoning, myself-which is not usually my problem.
Pack into your terrine or loaf pans, pushing down firmly into the corners. Cover, set in a roasting pan, and add your hottest tap water to come halfway up the side of the terrine. Set in the oven to cook. Start checking with the instant read thermometer at 45 minutes. It is done when the internal temp is 160F.This could take up to an hour and a half, they say. Remove from the oven, take off cover and weight the pate down as it cools. I used a cardboard covered with foil, cut to fit the terrine. I wrapped it in foil, and set tomato cans on it.
Once it is at room temp, move the pan and its weights to the fridge, and cool overnight, before removing the weights. You can slice nice neat slices right from the terrine or pan. Keep it well wrapped in plastic in the fridge.
After I've had a chance to catch my breath, I think my next trial in this area is going to be either a more complex pate, or some sausages in casings. Before I do either though, I want to get some sweet and sour prunes going. There's a great looking recipe for sweet and sour prunes in Paula Wolfert's recent edition of The Cooking of Southwest France. These are said to be particularly delicious with pate, and need six weeks to ripen. I'll be getting them going soon, I hope. Update will follow.