Down to earth

Sadly, I think I have come back down to earth. Not that where I've landed is such a bad place, because it's pretty wonderful actually, but you know, it's just a little bit more real down here. As in, deadlines and thirty-six-degree rain and our-dog-ate-your-cake real.

No really, he did.

He has sort of a track record with this kind of behavior, but yesterday's episode was particularly un-amusing, because it was the end of a two day streak which involved, amongst other crimes, fishing the pork butt bones from the trash, demolishing them, giving them back to us in a most unsavory form on our bedroom floor, and finally, stealing my still-hot buttermilk cake, every crumb. Luckily, I hadn't put the lemon-thyme infused pears on top, or he would probably be at the pound right now. At any rate, he wanted me to tell you that he is very sorry about your cake, as am I, and that we promise to make it for you again soon, before all the pears disappear. In the meantime, you will have to settle for pâté de campagne, which, who are we kidding, is not really settling at all.

Pâté de campagne, in case you've never tried it, is one of the very best specialties of the French. It is a country pâté, made from ground pork butt and pork liver and onions and garlic and parsley and spices bound together with a panade and baked in a water bath in a terrine mold. It is a lot more rustic than some of its more famous pâté counterparts, like foie gras or liverwurst, which are smooth and spreadable and a lot more like butter than meat. Instead, pâté de campagne is smooth on the outside but rough hewn in the middle, sort of like a very dense, extra moist meatloaf that you cut into slices and devour on toasted baguette. We had it in Paris, several times, and this weekend, we made it again at home.

As you can see up there, we actually tried to recreate everything from Paris this weekend at home—the baguette with butter and radishes, the spicy arugula bedding, the side of sauteed mushrooms with toast, too. Our three days in Paris, if we're being entirely honest, consisted mostly of eating and walking and stopping to eat again, and we haven't really seen any particular reason to stop just because we're back home.

We have some challenges ahead of us for sure, like recreating the Dover sole with champagne butter and the gnocchi with escargot we had at Au Bon Accueil, a fancy restaurant near the Eiffel Tower where my mom's friend from college sent us, and that Alex claims changed his life. We have our work cut out with the chocolat chaud, too, and the way it's so thick it almost feels like warm chocolate pudding in your mouth. The soupe à l'oignon will be difficult, and I have not met anyone around here just yet baking Paris-status croissants, but we will find a way.

In the meantime, though, I think we will be perfectly content to subsist on pâté.

Pâté de Campagne

adapted from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, by Michael Rhulman and Brian Polcyn

You will need a meat grinder to make this recipe. Having just acquired a KitchenAid from my godmother, we used the meat grinder attachment on that, but you could use any sort, so long as it has large die and small die blades.

Once you've found a meat grinder, the best way to tackle this recipe, I think, is in two phases. In the early afternoon maybe, do all of the prep work—chop the onions and the parsley and the mushrooms and mince the garlic and mix the spices so they're ready to go—throw the bowls and the blades in the freezer, make sure the pork butt and the liver are ready to rock, and get your pots and pans out. Then, take a walk or read a book or lounge around in the tub for a few hours, and while you're getting ready to make dinner, do the meat grinding and the mixing and the baking. That way it doesn't seem like such a daunting task.

Then of course, after the
pâté has cooled for a day or two, get it out along with a baguette and a jar of pickles and squeal with delight.

2 pounds pork butt, cut into long thin strips
4 ounces pork liver
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 and 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon
pâté spice, made by mixing: (1 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground white pepper)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 eggs
2 tablespoons brandy
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup sauteed mushrooms (I used shiitakes sauteed in butter), diced

Put two nesting metal mixing bowls, one medium size mixing bowl, and either a KitchenAid bowl or another large mixing bowl in the freezer along with the meat grinder's blades. (Don't skip this step, as the cold will help the
pâté bind together.)

Once everything is frozen, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Fill the larger of the nesting mixing bowls with several trays of ice cubes and nestle the smaller one on top. Grind the pork butt through the large die of the meat grinder into the smaller bowl.

Put about a third of this ground pork butt into the medium size mixing bowl. Add the liver, onion, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and
pâté spice and mix. Fit the grinder with the small die blade and grind this mixture into the remaining coarsely ground pork. Put the bowl of meat into the refrigerator.

In a small (room temperature) mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, eggs, brandy, and cream. (This is called a "panade.") Take the ground meat out of the refrigerator and mix this into it for about a minute, until everything is combined and sticky. Fold in the mushrooms.

Line a terrine mold (or, if you don't have one, a loaf pan, which works just as well) with plastic wrap, leaving enough of an over hang on the two long sides to fold over the top. Fill the pan with the
pâté mixture and press it down firmly to make sure it doesn't have any air bubbles. Fold the extra plastic over the top and cover the pan tightly with foil.

Place the
pâté pan in a slightly bigger casserole dish, and fill the dish with very hot tap water until the liquid reaches halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake the pâté for roughly an hour, probably a little bit longer, until the inside of the pâté is 150 degrees F. Take the pan out of the water bath and put something heavy, like a tin of olive oil or a brick or a few pounds of butter, on top of the pâté while it cools. Once it's room temperature, put it in the refrigerator and leave it to chill for at least twelve hours, and preferably several days, before serving.

P.S. I wanted to try something new today, which I am going to try to do from now on, which is to tell you where (most) of the ingredients I mentioned in the post are from. It's sort of hard to list this on the sidebar I've realized, since where I find things changes all the time, so even though I might not remember all the time, for today here goes:

arugula, baguette, eggs, onions, pears, & radishes:
the last Provincetown farmers' market, which was, very sadly, on Saturday
from a winter braid we bought in Maine at the Common Ground Fair
heavy cream:
Garelick Farms, because we haven't gotten a milk coop pick-up yet since we came home
Crow Farm in Sandwich, which is open until Christmas

from our friends in Truro, George and Janet, who very kindly raised us half a pig
from Julie Winslow in Orleans, last summer, and then we dried them


Alison said...

My dog did the exact same thing....I plated the cake, ran to get the camera and when I returned the cake was gone. Gone! Not even a crumb remained...and the dog was hunkered down under the dining room table hoping desperately not to be noticed.

Pate looks divine though...never attempted it as it's always seemed a bit time consuming.

Anna said...

Ooh Fishy, what a bad dog. Luckily a Very Bad Dog makes for a Very Cute Picture. I hope he gets it out of his system before the Christmas baking extravaganza begins!

Anonymous said...

Sounds delicious! But two concerns:

1) Do you really call it "pork butt" when you ask for it at the store?

2) Doesn't cooking something in plastic wrap give you cancer?

Elspeth said...

Alison, it's good to know you have a bad dog too. Somehow, it makes me feel a little better about mine. Happily, I remade the cake today, and he hasn't gotten to it yet!

Anna, don't worry. We will lock him in his kennel and throw away the key. Christmas cookies are waaay too important to take a chance with.

And anonymous, yes, it is sort of embarrassing, but it really is called pork butt. The other name is butt steaks, which I'm not sure is much better, but you can take some comfort in the fact that it's actually a shoulder cut, so it doesn't come from the pig's rear end.

As for the plastic wrap, you are probably right, although I have to admit I have a very hard time keeping up with all of the things that give you cancer. I did a little bit of googling, not on the cancer issue, but on alternative methods, and there are a few interesting ideas over here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/622525. It sounds like it can be avoided so long as you aren't too worried about presentation.

Good luck!

All the best,

Simple. said...

Sounds delicious! My cat doesn't eat my cakes, but it's all I can do to keep her out of my indoor plants. She has destroyed many a winter lettuce plant.


Tara said...

Pork, mushrooms, radishes, baguette, escargot? I think I might swoon! All my favorite things!

I'm just trying to figure out where I'll get pork liver now. Any suggestions on where I might get some in a more, er, conventional setting than buying a whole hog (not that THAT would be bad)?

Tara said...

Or, would chicken livers make an acceptable (if not authentic) substitution?

Elspeth said...

Simple, I now feel very lucky. I would be a hundred times more upset with Fisher if he had a penchant for lettuce stealing...the (finally!) full size winter lettuce in my greenhouse has been growing since August! You will have to give that cat a swat.

And Tara, yes, you can definitely use chicken liver. According to the recipe I used, it is a perfectly acceptable alternative, but isn't preferred because you can't cook it for quite as long which apparently makes it a little less moist, although I will admit I can't quite follow that logic. At any rate, the most important change to keep in mind if you use chicken liver is that the internal temperature of the pate has to reach 160 degrees F, not 150. Happy pate-ing! And let us know if you decide to buy a pig!

All the best,

alec said...

we had the exact same trip - paris is best eaten.

Elspeth said...

alec, very well said. and very true. what was your favorite thing?


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