Originally anything called a "pate" was assumed to be served in a bread crust. Today "pate" just referrers to the interior forcemeat, needing the "pate en croute" to emphasize that you've made a pie for your liver puree. Just like all the variations on pie crust, pates have a variety of available crusts, depending on how durable you need them to be.
I've tried the classic, sturdy hot water crust in my English Pork Pie, a crust famed for being strong enough to act as culinary cardboard packaging. This time, however, I was after something a bit more delicate. My mom found a rectangular pate mold at a garage sale, which would allow me to make a delicate, geometrically-pleasing pate with a tender pie dough-esque crust.
This type of pate matches the buttery, flaky crust with a finely ground filling, or a mousseline if you want to make something more like a savory custard. To start, I ground a pound of veal shoulder and mixed in minced shallot, garlic, white pepper, clove, thyme, and a dash of sodium nitrite to preserve the pink color. I wanted to add some visual interest by alternating layers of veal forcemeat with a rich, creamy mousse. Pistachios appear in a number of classic pate recipes, which made them a good candidate. The fact that I love pistachios sealed the deal.
While the ground veal came out well, I need to work on my mousses. I pureed 3/4 C of pistachios with heavy cream and two egg yolks, then gently warmed the mixture to thicken. The problem is my heavy hand with the cream. It was a bit too loose and custard-like, not thick like a mousse.
The pate crust was a basic pie crust, but with the addition of an egg and a bit more mixing of the dough. After it had chilled for thirty minutes, I rolled it out into a single sheet. This type of rectangular pate mold has removable sides, allowing you to carefully lift off the mold without tearing the crust. Think of it as a rectangular spring-form pan.
Once the sides were lined with crust, I poured in alternating layers of ground veal and pistachio mousse. Then I took the remaining scraps of dough and rolled them into a lid, with a small vent hole to allow steam to escape. And into the oven!
Normally you bake a pate like this with the sides on for 75% of the cooking time, then take the sides off and return it to the oven for the last quarter. This browns and firms the crust on the sides of the pate. But my loose mousse turned against me at this point. The excess water from the mousse softened the sides and made them begin to droop. As a remedy, I slipped the sides back on and finished baking the pate through. In the last five minutes I turned the heat up to 425 F, took off the frame, and snatched the pate out as soon as the sides took on a nice toasty color.
To allow the innards of the pate to set and the flavors to meld, a pate like this should be refrigerated for one or two days. Once ready to eat, slice into thick slabs. Serve cool or at room temperature. The serving temperature should be kept in mind, as you'll need to season a pate more aggressively if it's served cold. Cold food dulls flavors, so compensate with an extra dash of salt. The creamy flavor of the pistachios were a lovely foil for the mild flavor of veal, which is what really set this pate off. A plain veal pate would be nice, but rather bland. I served this with a little chutney and pickles, but you could also have it alongside a salad or following a soup.
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