I was surprised at the beauty of the chopped meat, glistening under a layer of beaten eggs and flour, browned corners of liver jumbled with marbled pink pork belly. The smell of rich liver and sweet shallots, sautéed hours earlier, lingered in the air as I put the meat mixture through the grinder. It rolled out of the die in long curling strands— I was finally making pâté!
I've been wanting to make pâté for a really long time. I bought Rhulman's Charcuterie, and Grigson's Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery, and I leafed through their pâté sections over and over. But somehow, whenever I found the time, I didn't have the ingredients, and when I had the ingredients, I couldn't find the time. Finally, last weekend I decided I was going to just dive in. I was going to have to wing it a little, as I didn't have the exact compliment of ingredients for any one recipe.
Following a combination of pâté de campagne recipes from the two books, I started by marinating my meat with a combination of salt, pepper, bay and thyme. I had about three pounds of mixed chopped veal and pork liver, and, in a separate container, about a pound of meat trimmed from a piece of pork belly. I sliced the fatty part of the pork belly into thin strips and used them to line my loaf pan. After all this had had a few hours in the fridge, I browned the liver until it was crispy around the edges. Then I cooked some shallots in the remaining oil and deglazed the pan with a healthy splash of Jim Beam. I added the liquid back to the liver and chilled it again.
When everything (including the mixing bowl and food grinder) was nice and cold, I mixed together the meats, added some chopped parsley and the egg and flour mixture, and then ran it all through the food grinder. The resulting meat paste was mixed a little, then packed into the fat-lined pan and covered with more fat strips and foil. After a long, slow cooking in a roasting pan of water, the pâté was weighted and cooled overnight. The wait for the first taste was long and impatient.
The pâté, at the anxious moment of unveiling, was firm, with a smooth, strong liver flavor. It was sweet and clean, like a mild liverwurst. Unfortunately, I found that the pork fat slices lining the pan did not melt away quite the way I expected. The cooled pork belly fat was dense, chewy and bland. I am pretty sure this is because I didn't slice the fat quite thinly enough or pound it, but whatever the reason, I just removed the limp, cold strips. The resulting loaf of pâté looked lumpy and uneven, so I coated it in a thick layer of freshly-cracked pepper, which had the advantage of adding a spicy kick to the flavor. Greg and I enjoyed it for lunch with toast, chopped red onions and homemade pickles... we were only missing the champagne!