When I was young, no sooner would my mother would pull out the pâté (pronounced pah-tay) and I'd run screaming "no liver, no liver" from the room. Thankfully I grew out of that phase, and am not only not running away but blissfully consuming it whenever possible. A friend in town from cooking school wanted to dine at a true French bistro so off we went to La Beurre Noisette in the 15th. You'd be hard pressed to find an American (read: tourist) in there though the wait staff delighted in practicing their English on us. The menu is traditional French bistro fare. Check. Appetizers of Terrine de Canard and Foie Gras. Check, check.
I am often asked about the difference between foie gras (fwa grah), pâté (pah-tay), and terrines (tear-een). Foie gras literally translates to fat (gras) liver (foie). Long regarded as the ultimate culinary luxury, the livers come from specially fattened geese or duck and have been deveined and cooked, most often molded in a log shape then poached in a liqueur such as port or cognac or simply sliced and seared.
Though the practice of force-feeding ducks and geese dates back to Egypt around 400 B.C., chef Jean-Joseph Clause, from France naturellement, is credited for creating pâté de foie gras in 1779. Chef Clause's culinary acumen was admired by King Louis XVI and he received a patent for it in 1784. Quite controversial in today's charged political climate, it has been outlawed in California after 2012…so eat up while you can! :-)
Foie Gras Poché avec Vin Rouge et Épices ~ Foie Gras Poached with Red Wine and Spices and sprinkled with fleur de sel de Geurande (highest quality salt), served with fig compote, toasted baguette.
(My apologies for the poor picture quality. My camera, like most mass transit systems here, decided to go on strike for no apparent reason…)
Pâtés and terrines on the other hand incorporate foie gras or regular livers along with many other ingredients. There is little difference between the two and they are often interchanged. Pâté en croute (on kroot), pâté en terrine or simply pâté or terrine. More rustic, country fare, they are served with toasted pain de campagne (pan de kom-pine, country bread) and cornichons (those tiny pickles) or a tangy chutney to counter the richness.
But first, what is pâté? Pâté derives from the word pâte (pronounced pot, means dough in French) which refers to the pastry crust they were baked in and is basically a mixture of seasoned ground meat, seafood or vegetables, and often a combination of several different base ingredients. Beef, pork, liver, ham, seafood, wild game, poultry, and vegetables all make delicious pâtés. The goal is to create a contrast in textures and flavors.
Terrine de Canard au Poivre Vert ~ Duck Terrine with Green Pepper, served with toasted pain de campagne and cornichons on the side
Originally called pâté en croute (in crust), they are cooked in brick shaped loaf pans or terrines, hence the name, and the main ingredient determines the name. For example, terrine de canard will be predominantly duck or pâté de gibier will contain mostly wild game. The French consider both lean and fat pork to be essential to a successful terrine and the fat content (usually pork fat back) recommended is, hold onto your thighmasters, a whopping 30% of the total weight. Don't expect to find it on the South Beach Diet any time soon…
Pâté is one of the most versatile dishes imaginable, aside from the incredible, edible egg. It takes a bit of time and effort to make though probably not as much as you'd first think and well worth the effort in the end. Bon Appetit!
Terrine de Campagne ~ Country Pâté
Remember to treat the different ingredients separately so that they maintain their distinct texture and taste. If you combined and ground everything together, you'd basically have meatloaf…and we certainly couldn't charge 12 euros ($15) for a slice of meatloaf…nor would it have the same je ne sais quoi!
• ¼ lb chicken livers, ground finely
• ½ lb pork shoulder, ground finely
• ¼ lb pork fat back, ground finely
• ¼ lb skinless chicken breast, ground finely
• ½ lb pork shoulder, coarsely chopped
• ¼ lb pork fat back, cut in fine dice, ¼ inch
• ¼ lb ham, cut into ½ inch dice
• ½ cup pistachio nuts, shelled
• 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped into a paste
• 2 shallots or 1 small onion, finely diced
• 1 tablespoon marjoram, chopped
• 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
• ½ cup cognac
• ½ cup port
• ½ bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves finely chopped
• sheet of caul fat or cheese cloth
• bay leaves
1. heat oven to 325F (165C / #5).
2. sauté the chicken livers on extra virgin olive oil over high heat until cooked to medium.
3. take out the livers and add the shallots, garlic, marjoram and thyme to the pan and cook until translucent.
4. combine with the ingredients 2 through 4 and grind finely.
5. in a large bowl, combine cognac, port, salt, pepper.
6. add in finely ground mixture, coarsely chopped pork shoulder, diced pork fat back and ham, pistachio nuts, parsley and mix thoroughly so all ingredients are distributed evenly.
7. line a terrine with caul fat (or cheese cloth in a pinch) and fill with the mixture.
8. lay bay leaves on top of the mixture (see top picture) and wrap the caul fat or cheese cloth over the meat.
9. cook in a hot water bath but don't allow the water to boil as it will toughen then meat. the goal is to gently cook it so the meat doesn't shrink. cook until the terrine has an internal temperature of 140-150F (60-65C).
10. set terrine aside and let cool.
11. put a weight on top of the terrine (a few can of soup work well) and place in the fridge to chill.
12. slice and serve with toasted country bread and cornichons or a tangy chutney.
La Beurre Noisette
68 rue Vasco de Gama
75015 Paris, France
+33 (0)1 48 56 82 49
Metro: #8 Lourmel