Friday, June 6, 2008

"Healthy" Classics: Pâté de Campagne

The man is in Europe and I cook just for my precious self for the time being, so I can relax and forget about fat, cholesterol, and calorie count (I am sure he is not weighting each slice of cheese there either, but you know how you always eat a lot and still lose weight when you travel - I guess he'll be OK).

So we cut into large cubes fat pork belly and pig's liver - sounds like a swearing, Pig's Liver! right? - and marinate them in cheap white bordeaux and cognac, adding a couple of shalots, couple of large garlic cloves, a crushed Jamaican pepper, some dried Provance herbs, or whatever we feel like - I was feeling like Provence herbs.

Cannot add salt and pepper to taste, it's not a very good idea to taste fresh pork from the Chinese store. So just add salt and pepper. I found out that no matter how much salt I add to the pâté or sausage meat, I always have to add more, and even after that they come out not as salty as they are supposed to be.

So we just add a lot of salt and pepper at this stage, and refrigerate the meat till tomorrow.

The next day, we get out the old trusted meat grinder, attach it to the counter, get our meat out of the fridge, and completely mess up our kitchen, clothes, and hair.
Sorry, my hands were so dirty at this step that I just couldn't photograph the process. After the clean-up, we are hopefully left with a bowl of forcemeat. Now we get 2-3 Tbsp of the meat, form it into a patty, if it's too wet, roll it in breadcrumbs, fry it, try it, and adjust the salt! Note that we were probably eating the patty still hot, and the pâté will be served cold, so if the patty tastes good, ADD SOME MORE SALT to the forcemeat. If it comes out undersalted, the best you can do is to serve it with pickles and olives, there is no way to add salt to the finished product.

I was inspired to make pâté this time not only by the absense of the man on a diet, but also by half a pound of caul fat that I recently found in Dittmer's freezer. For such a wonderful product, caul fat is very difficult to find. But now I know that Dittmer's has it, and I'll never wrap my pâté in bacon again! After you defrost your half-pound, it unwraps into a snow-white finest fractal lace that looks more like an example of digital art than like something coming from animal intestines. And it doesn't have added smoke flavor.

As much as I love everything smoked, the bacon flavor does clash with the pâté.

So we unwrap our fatty lace and carefully line the terrine mold (or loaf pan, whatever will be used to cook the pâté) with it, fill it with forcemeat, packing it tight, and cover with the edges of the caul fat, so that the pâté is completely wrapped, cover it with aluminum foul, and in the oven it goes, on a water bath, at 350F, for about 2 hours.

To get the texture right, you have to cool down the pâté under weight. What I use is an oval of cardboard a little smaller than my mold, wrapped in foil and weighted with a large can of San Marzano tomatoes. The next day it's ready to eat. If you don't plan to eat it all at once, cover it with rendered pork, or, better yet, duck fat, to preserve it. I was lucky to have two molds of pâté, and a whole jar of fat left over from a roasted duck, so I'll be eating pâté all week, and will do my best to make sure that by the time the man comes back, there will be no "healthy" food in the house.

Wine: 2004 Dry Creek Mariner, my favorite, I used to have a case...

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