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#1024 - Homemade Pates
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Winter is a good time to enjoy cured meats, particularly if you have a source for good local product. Don't happen to know anyone practicing charcuterie? No problem; do it yourself. Pates, terrines and mousses of various kinds are actually very easy to make, and even easier to enjoy. And, it's a good way to use up left over scraps of this, that and the other.
First of all some clarification: pate is usually coarse, meaty, can be sliced; mousse is quite smooth, creamy, meaty, and usually will be spread; and a terrine is also smooth, creamy but vegetable based, without meat, and it also will be spread.
There are some elements common to all pates and mousses: liver of some sort, seasonings, a food processor, a loaf pan, and a "bain marie" for long slow, moist cooking in the oven.
Most of the mousse recipes call for poultry livers, almost always chicken, but duck livers are a treat. The livers are ordinarily sauteed in a skillet with butter, seasonings, and often a little alcohol such as brandy or sherry. The cooked livers are then put into a processor, along with a few other chosen ingredients for seasoning, and then pureed at length until they are smooth. It's often good to force them through a relatively fine sieve, to remove any troublesome fibers. The entire mixture is poured into a loaf pan, or a ceramic ovenproof terrine (the classic ones have rounded ends). You then place the loaf pan in a deep pan filled with enough boiling water to come about halfway up the sides. Bake in a 300 degree oven, replenishing the water, for about 2 hours.
The coarser Country Pates, or Pate de Campagne, are more pork oriented. In addition to pork liver, you will also often use several other meats, such as lean veal, cooked ham and pork belly. These ingredients are either pushed through a meat grinder, or processed in small batches very quickly and coarsely in the Cuisinart. The country pates usually have some kind of animal fat , or an egg to act as a binder. After mincing, it is also common to add ingredients like pistachio nuts, dried cherries, or currants. Sage and thyme also frequently make their way into recipes.
Finally, in both cases you will often see that strips of raw bacon are used to either line the loaf pan, or wrap the pate in some manner. This helps keep the pate moist, and easy to remove from the pan. Pates are usually removed from their molds, while the mousses appear in the mold or ceramic dish itself.
If you can, make your pate several days before serving, and let it set up in your refrigerator. Don't forget the crusty bread, the tangy mustard, and most importantly, the gherkins.