When my niece Courtney was eight years old she told me she wanted to become a Chef and wanted me to teach her how to cook. I decided to make Duck Country Pate with her. It only made sense to start her off with a classic French recipe, plus every kid makes brownies with their uncle and I wanted more for Courtney. So all afternoon we grinded meats, measured spices and herbs, lined pans with bacon and spoke in French accents. It was a gay old time. When the moment came to eat the pate, we put on our French Berets and sat down to dig in, after a while, my niece looked up at me, and said, “Uncle Johnny why do they call it Pate? This is just fancy meatloaf.” And she was right, because when it comes right down to it, that’s all it is, a fancy loaf of meat, but oh, what a fancy loaf of meat it is!
Pates are a blast to make and I have been making them for years. When I was in Culinary School my favorite courses were the ones that were complicated, traditional and when you had to wait a day or two for the results. I love the idea of grinding different kinds of meats and combining them together with cognac and herbs & spices. I also love the way the house smells when making a Pate; earthy, spicy and warm, and I imagine in my romantic foodie mind that every house in the country side of France smells just like my home. -And so I ask, what could possibly be better?
A slice of Pate makes for a fantastic appetizer or snack. I suggest you make one today.
Country Duck Pate
**(This is Martha Stewart’s Country Duck Pate recipe and I also use some of her directions, however I eliminated the apricots & apples and made a few of my own adjustments in the preparation. *indicates what I added or changed)
*1/2 cup cognac
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, or duck fat
1 medium onion, minced
2 medium shallots, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
*1 tablespoon sage
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, finely ground and chilled
2 pounds fresh fatback, finely ground and chilled
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless duck breast, finely ground and chilled, plus 1/2 pound, cut into strips
1 pound thinly sliced fresh fatback (Or 2 pounds bacon to line terrine pan or loaf pan)
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, finely ground, and chilled
3/4 cup unsalted pistachios, toasted
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, shallots, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl, and place in freezer until cold, about 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the onion mixture, eggs, cognac 1/2 cup salt, pepper, thyme, and allspice; set aside. In a large chilled bowl, combine pistachios, pork, fatback, ground duck and chicken mix well. Add the egg mixture, and mix until well combined. (I suggest letting this sit overnight in frig, if you do, do not add salt until right before ready to bake the pate).
Line 2 terrine pans (loaf pans) with bacon fat leaving a 2-inch overhang.
Divide half of the meat mixture between the terrines, gently press to pack down. Arrange the strips of duck. Top with remaining meat mixture.
Fold over bacon to enclose and bang pan to make sure air is released and tightly compacted.
Cover with parchment paper and then wrap terrine in aluminum foil.
Place terrines in each of 2 roasting pans. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the terrines. Transfer to oven, and bake until a meat thermometer inserted into the center registers 140 degrees. Remove from oven completely cool.
Cut cardboard to fit just inside the rim of each terrine. Place cardboard on each terrine, and top each with a weight, such as a few cans or a brick. Then refrigerate overnight, and up to 2 days. Unmold or serve directly from the terrine. I like to let it age for five days before I cut into it because it give the flavors a chance to come out. Serve with gherkins, mustard and fruit chutney.