Historically, (and today in many parts of the world) no part of an animal is wasted from the dinner table — a good example of this is bottarga, cured mullet roe from the Mediterranean. Another is French pâté.
Pâté was first sold as a simple meat pie in food markets in ancient Greece. In its early form, it was not the delicacy that it is today, but a way for butchers to use each part of an animal to maximize profit. In the 18th century, it was elevated by Marie Antoine Careme, a celebrated professional chef known for his extravagant presentations. But it was the most famous French chef of all time, August Escoffier, who brought it to culinary greatness. He was tasked with creating an elegant meal to celebrate the end of “The Great War” in 1918. He had few supplies — pâté of foi gras, truffle, and table bread, and from these ingredients, the standard recipe for Pâté Maison was born.
Pâté means pie. Pâté Maison, “specialty pie of the house” (loosely). It is a well-seasoned, finely textured meat pie (duck liver is traditionally the star ingredient) that is served cold as an appetizer and alongside charcuterie (smoked and cured meats and fish.) While it is most famously celebrated in France, variations come from many countries.
Ingredients – Pâté Maison (pah-tay mā-zō):
½ lb. duck liver; or veal, chicken or turkey, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ lb. boneless chicken (reserve liquid)
1 cup duck breast, diced
¾ cups yellow onion, minced
1 large shallot, minced
½ cup chicken fat
¾ cup butter
1 Tbsp. Cognac
2 Tbsp. Brandy
Ingredients – Parisian (Pâté) Spice:
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
½ Tbsp. bay leaf, crushed
½ Tbsp. thyme
½ Tbsp. mace
½ Tbsp. rosemary
¾ tsp. cloves, ground
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. white pepper
2 tsp. Spanish paprika
1/3 cup salt
Directions – Pâté Maison (pah-tay mā-zō):
In a large saucepan, sauté onions and shallot in 3 Tbsp. chicken fat until softened, remove and set aside. In the same skillet, sauté duck liver, duck breast, and chicken and cook through. Cool in the refrigerator. When fully chilled, chop in a food processor very coarsely.
In a large bowl, combine chopped meat, liver and onion mixture, butter, chicken fat, cognac and pâté spice (recipe follows). Beat by hand with a wooden spoon until fluffy. Add more spice if needed. Pack mixture into a mold and chill in a refrigerator until firm. Serve with traditional accompaniments: charcuterie, gherkins, green olives, hard crackers, french bread and marmalade.
Directions – Parisian (Pâté) Spice:
Combine all ingredients in a mortal and grind with pestle. Put mixture through a fine sieve five times. Continue this process until spice is powder fine. Reserve the remainder in a mason jar for later use.
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