Pâté is the kind of thing you see in French butchers’ windows or served by slice in a Brasserie in Paris, so you naturally assume that making it is complicated, fraught with risk and really belongs in the domain of the experienced chef. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s easy to make and once you slice it and serve it up, the feeling of complete satisfaction is quite incomparable. A meat thermometer will be useful to have, but you can do without if you must. Apart from that, you don’t need a thing you don’t already have!
I use this really cute one litre piggy pot in cast iron, but you can literally use any glass, ceramic or metal container that can go into the oven whether with or without lid. I like to serve the pâté in the container it has been cooked in, so I can scoop out the delicious jelly that forms during the cooking process. Country pâté can be made slowly, at low temperature, or quite fast at a high temperature like meatloaf. Cooked slowly inside a bain-marie, it will be a little finer in texture, so that’s what I’m going for today.
Rustic Pork Pâté
- 250g pork belly, skin removed
- 500g pork shoulder or collar
- 70g pork or chicken liver
- 120g guanciale or Parma or Serrano ham, thickly sliced
- 18 slices of smoked pancetta for lining the pot (optional)
- 2 small egg whites
- 1 small brown onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced and crushed to a paste
- 3 Tbsp peaty whiskey
- 6 fresh sage leaves
- 2 sprigs marjoram (about 2 Tbsp whole, loose leaves)
- ½ tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 small bay leaves, hard center vein removed
Making this pâté is easiest if you have a meat grinder, but having one is not at all essential. You can quite easily chop the relatively small quantity of pork by hand. Providing that you follow my instructions on how to cut the meat, it’s not much work at all. But if you are planning on making these types of terrines more often, it’s worth investing in a simple meat grinder, or an attachment for your stand mixer.
It is absolutely essential that all the meats are very well chilled at every stage of the production. If you don’t chill properly, the protein in the meat will break down and you will end up with a crumbly pâté, which is not what you want! I actually place my seasoned mix into the freezer for half an hour before grinding it.
Wash the fresh herbs, dry them and pluck the leaves. Cut the vein out of the bay leaves and mix it all together. Chop the dry and fresh herbs as finely as you can.
Cut the belly and shoulder into small dice. If you are using a meat grinder, you can leave the dice larger, but if not, it’s a good idea to cut small dice. Dice the liver, but do not mix it with the rest of the meat. Cut the guanciale or ham into dice and keep it separate. We are going to mix this in after we have ground the meat, so however big you want your dice, that’s how you should cut them. Add the diced onion and the finely chopped garlic to the mix. Season the diced meats with a generous amount of salt, white pepper and the spice mix, then drizzle the whiskey over, cover and chill. I keep the diced guanciale in the separate container, but I place it inside the tray, because I have been known to forget to add it.
Using the largest die of your grinder, grind the belly and shoulder once. If you are hand chopping, stop when the mixture is still quite coarse. Divide the meat roughly into two. Open the grinder and change to the medium die. Now grind the liver, mix it with one half of the ground meat and grind that half one more time through the same medium die. If you’re doing this by hand, just add the liver to one half of the roughly chopped meat and continue to chop until your second half is quite fine. Mix the rough meat mixture, the fine mix and the diced pancetta thoroughly. Adjust the seasoning. I just taste a little of the raw mix. When it tastes a bit oversalted, it will be just right. Chilled meat will taste less salty than cooked meat, so be generous with your salt and pepper. I would much rather eat a slightly over seasoned pâté than a bland one.
Prepare a deepish tray that can fit your pâté mould and that you can fill with hot water to come halfway up to the mould. Preheat your oven to 160ºC
Cover your forcemeat and put it into the freezer while you line the form. Now here I can’t really give you exact instructions, because it all depends on the width and length of your pancetta (or smoked bacon, which will work just as well). If you intend to unmould your pâté, you need to focus on how the bottom of the pot is going to look like and if, like me, you are serving it in the pot, you need a nice looking top. Think patterns; simple full slices, herringbone, criss-cross, maybe a weave?? But remember that the slices will shrink! And don’t forget to leave enough hanging over to cover the top of your pâté!
Once your artful lining is completed, just fill the forcemeat into the pot, fold the pancetta over the top, push it all down well to make sure you have no holes in your pâté. Put the lid on the mould and if your mould doesn’t have a lid, just leave it open. Put it in your baking tray, place all into the middle of your oven, fill the ray with hot water and bake your pâté for one and a half to two hours, or until the internal temperature has reached at the very least 65ºC. I do bring my pâté to 75ºC, just to be on the safe side.
Once cooked, you may want to put a flat, aluminium wrapped piece of cardboard on top and weigh it down with a big can of whatever is to hand. This is not absolutely necessary, but it will give you a better, more firmly textured pâté. As soon as the pâté is cool enough to go into the chiller, chill it. You can eat it the next day, but it will be much better a bout 2 days later, when it has had time to mature. Your whole pâté will easily last in the chiller for a week or two, but once cut, you should try and eat it within 7 days.
The pictures above show the pâté during the cooking, in the water bath, then fully cooked but still hot. You can see how the meat has shrunk and the fat has accumulated at the sides. If you are not using a thermometer, look for a nice gap of about 1 cm all around and you can be sure that your pâté is cooked. Once you have chilled it overnight, the delicious fat will have turned white as in the picture here.
NOTE: If like me, you have a little too much forcemeat, fashion it into a burger patty and pan fry it! It makes a great snack for a hungry cook. The burger will taste overly salty and that’s how you want it, because when you eat the pâté cold, the saltiness will be just right.