Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rustic French Pate

         I discovered this wonderfully different pate almost by accident as you will read in this story.  But in casting about for our 12 days of Christmas recipes, I realized it's just the kind of dish that has Holiday written all over it.  A pate that you can put on a buffet table at a holiday party and watch disappear.  And wonder of wonders, it's not a pate riddled fat. In fact the only fat in it is from the ground pork and veal. Nothing else.  So go ahead and make this delicious dish one day this season.  I think you'll wish me a Merry Christmas when you do. Now here's the background.
          More often than I’d like, I’ll make something that I think will be what Andrew has taken to call “blogworthy” only to have it crash and burn and not turn out to be at all usable.  Case in point was a recent recipe that caught my eye for “Rustic French Meatloaf”.  I’m all for meatloaf and put it near the top of my comfort food list.
        Unfortunately, “Rustic French Meatloaf”, fell apart while being sliced and looked pretty terrible in every photograph—a kind of gray mass.  The taste, however, was far more interesting than the way it looked.  What made it French were the pistachio nuts and prunes.  Yes, prunes!  The nuts and the fruit added a completely different dimension to the dish.  And so we sat down and enjoyed our dinner and wrote it off as blog fodder.

 The next day however was an entirely different story.  The cold meatloaf was the grandest of pates.  It sliced beautifully and evenly. The pistachios and the prunes provided a beautiful contrast to the meatier ingredients.  Served with slices of ciabatta, it was elegant and delicious. Another day it made a beautiful sandwich.  
            Then I realized that this was probably the easiest pate recipe I’d ever made.  Normally the process of making a “Pate de Campagne” is an arduous process involving all kinds of hard-to-find ingredients. Things like ‘caul fat’ spring to mind.  
Here, however, was the very basic recipe for any meatloaf.  Combining the readily available ingredients and cooking them in the oven with no ceremony attached was so simple.  The only time constraint is waiting overnight for the pate to emerge from the refrigerator.  But it’s worth it.  
Recipe for Rustic French Pate 

1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs (preferably from a rustic loaf)
1/2 cup whole milk
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound chicken livers, separated into lobes, trimmed, and rinsed
                                3/4 pound ground pork
3/4 pound ground veal
1/2 cup chopped prunes
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Serve with Dijon mustard. 

  1. Preheat oven to 475°F with rack in middle.
  2. Soak bread crumbs in milk in a small bowl.
  3. Cook onion, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in oil in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly.
  4. Purée livers in a blender, then transfer to a large bowl. Add pork, veal, prunes, pistachios, thyme, eggs, bread-crumb mixture, onion mixture, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and gently mix with your hands until just combined.
  5. Transfer mixture to a buttered 8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch glass loaf pan and bake, covered with foil, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 165°F, 50 to 55 minutes.
  6. Carefully remove the loaf from pan and wrap it in aluminum foil.  Place in the refrigerator overnight.  Before slicing, cover the entire top with a healthy layer of parsley before slicing.
  7. Note: You can use a metal pan, but you will have to increase the cooking time by a good 15 minutes.