Gascogne Pâté Grandmère

Adapted from Cathy Barrow at MrsWheelbarrow.com

This is a long recipe, but it’s a great experience for a serious meat-eating cook to dive into making a pâté every now and then. 

This recipe calls for quatre épices, a traditional French spice mix. You can find it in well-stocked spice sections or you can make your own by mixing equal amounts of ground nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and pepper.

Another unfamiliar ingredient is caul fat, a thin fatty membrane found in the abdominal cavity of a pig. Sutter Meats may have it on hand, but call ahead to have them save it for you. If you can’t find, or don’t want to work with, caul fat, thin slices of bacon are a fine substitute.

This recipe assumes you have a meat grinder, or know how to grind meat in your food processor. If you don’t, just ask to have your meat ground for you at the butcher’s. You will also need a scale (to calculate the salt requirement) and a meat thermometer.

You can halve this recipe if this seems like it makes too much, but then you’ll miss out on leftover pâté sandwiches (think of it as luxurious meatloaf). Serve your pâté at room temperature, with slices of baguette, sliced crisp fennel, and vinegary pickles.

Yield: 24 portions, 1 large loaf

Since our meat cuts won’t always come in exactly the weight we hoped for, this recipe calls for an amount of salt based on total weight of the meat.

Calculate the weight of salt like this:

Weight of meat in ounces (or grams) x 0.03 = number of ounces or grams of salt to add

For 2¼ pounds (950 grams) of pork, you calculate it this way:

2¼ pounds x 16 ounces = 36 ounces | 36 ounces x 3% = 1 ounce salt

Or, in metric: 900 grams x 3% = 27 grams salt

For the liver, it’s the same method:

½ pound = 8 ounces | 8 ounces x 3% = .25 ounce salt

Meat mixture

2¼ pounds (950 grams) pork shoulder

½ pound (200 grams) pork liver (you may substitute chicken or beef liver if pork liver is not available)

Kosher salt at 3% of the weight of the meat and liver (see below for how to calculate this)

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

4 bay leaves, fresh or dried

½ pound (200 grams) bacon, diced

Binder ingredients

2 large shallots, peeled and rough chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and the root trimmed

¼ cup flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

½ teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon quatre épices

4 ounces (½ cup) brandy

1 large egg, beaten well

4 ounces (½ cup) heavy cream

½ cup fresh breadcrumbs

Garnish

¼ pound (100 grams) crisp bacon, finely chopped (about ½ pound of raw bacon, pre-cooked weight)

¼ cup (3 ounces) toasted shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

Caul fat or 4 slices of bacon

Cube the pork shoulder. Weigh the meat and add enough salt to equal 3% of the weight (see below for method of calculating weight). Mix well in a medium bowl. Cube and weigh the liver, calculate the salt, add, mix well, and cover. Refrigerate both meats overnight.

Spread out the meat on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Add the ½ pound of bacon and freeze the meats for 1 hour. Grind meat with bay leaves and thyme leaves in a meat grinder.

While the meat is freezing, prepare the binder. Place all the binder ingredients except the egg, cream, and breadcrumbs in a food processor. Process until smooth. In a small bowl, beat the egg and cream together. Stir in the breadcrumbs and the contents of the food processor and set aside.

Slide a large, deep baking dish filled halfway with water into the oven. Heat the oven to 325°F. Grind the meat, liver, and diced bacon through the medium grinding disk into the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl. Add the binder mixture and stir well with a wooden spoon (or with the mixer’s paddle attachment). Continue to stir steadily until the mixture is emulsified and sticky, pulling away from the side of the bowl. Fold in the garnishes.

Line a large glass baking pan (2-quart capacity) or 10” loaf pan in caul fat or slices of bacon. Add the pâté in layers, packing the baking pan firmly to remove air pockets as you go. Fold the caul fat or bacon over the top, then place a piece of parchment and a piece of foil to cover and seal the pâté. Lower the baking dish into the water bath in the oven. Cook about 1 hour, then remove the parchment and foil and cook another 30 minutes, or until a thermometer plunged into the center of the pâté measures 155°F. Use temperature as your gauge of doneness, not time.

Carefully remove the pâté and water bath from the oven. Cover the pâté with plastic wrap to seal in the heat and the get the fats reabsorbed into the meat loaf. (I know it’s horrifying to think about pressing plastic wrap on this meat, but this is the best trick I know to make a moist, perfect pâté. You may skip this step if you prefer – in this case, cover the pâté with parchment and foil.)

When the pâté comes to room temperature, place it, still inside its baking dish, on a plate. Place another plate on top of the pâté, then add a 2-pound weight. This will compress the pâté and keep it moist and cohesive. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove the pâté from refrigerator. Fill the sink with 2-inches of very hot water. Warm the bottom of the baking dish in the sink for about 10 minutes to make it easier to remove the pâté from the pan. Invert the baking dish over a flat board or platter.

Wrap the pâté snugly in plastic wrap and then in foil. Place in the refrigerator for three days to allow the flavors to develop.