Joey and the girls went back to school today. Now I’m ready for my vacation.
Except that I found myself thinking of my ideal vacation as a period when I have lots of time to work. When I can write all day long, only taking breaks to retest a bread or a candy recipe. It’s been that kind of time.
Oh yeah. I’m 8 1/2 months pregnant with this book, and now I’m starting to hold on to my back as I lug all my hard work around with me. I can almost feel that book in my hands, or at least a finished manuscript. This has been one wild pregnancy.
Just to spice things up a little, I started a new job a few weeks ago. A couple of days of the week, you can find me here surrounded by the most beautiful olive oil, and cheese. And pate. It’s good…it balances all that time that I get stuck in my head and my kitchen, but between it all I’m ready for a vacation, a real one.
Who’s with me? Where should we go? Let’s make it somewhere really good.
I don’t mean to say that the last few weeks have been bad–they’ve just been crazy. There have been some upsides to it all, like some lovely dinners with friends passing through from here or there. There was that snowstorm that was better than tv to watch out the frosty window. A walk on new year’s day with my girls where I got to breathe in the woods while the girls inspected pine trees. And of course, there was the pate.
The thing is, I’m not even sure if I have ever had pate until now. I had no idea.
It wasn’t just me. One day last week Joey went for a hike in the woods simply so that he could bring beer and pate with him. Then he spent the next few days saying, “I went for a hike in the woods, and I had beer and pate.”
It’s easy to feel like royalty when you have the right snacks.
So why all this pate? Well, why not? And of course, now that I’m working at place that sells the finest pate around, I can continue to meet my pate needs.
And of course, I learned how to make it. Because I can’t think of a better thing to add to my repetoire.
Months ago I was sitting with my friend Audrey Sussman on her porch. We were drinking ice tea and enjoying the sun, probably having a meeting of some sort on recipes, as she’s recipe testing the book. But then she changed the subject, as if inspired, and she asked, “do you want to make pate?”
She used kind of a secret tone, like we were going to smoke behind the barn or steal lipsticks from the CVS. “You know, at Christmas,” she added. It was August.
I’ve always been an easy to convince, although I never was a lipstick stealer. (the Jewish guilt and fear of being caught stopped me). But I jumped on that one without a beat. The fall stretched ahead of us, but I knew that come Christmas, I’d be inducted into the pate making society.
Jean-Francois, who owns the little shop in which I’ve been working, says that pate peaks on the fifth day. It needs to meld, to mature and come together so that every bite has married every other, so that one slice… is perfect. Audrey and I made pate on December 23. That night I had a migraine, and Joey took a little molded pate to Lissa’s house. That was the first day, and they said the pate was lovely.
The migraine turned into more work at the little shop which then turned into a cold, and then there was Christmas and Chinese food and more work and leftovers, and then? Then it was December 28, our anniversary, and technically day six. With seven hour lamb in the oven, there was nothing to do but unmold that last and final pate. We had our friend Chris over, and we ate the whole thing.
It was indeed at it’s peak.
I know that it’s time to scale back, to detox and start fresh with the new year. Maybe it’s time to break my pate a day habit. Maybe it’s time for you to start yours.
(adapted by Audrey from the original New York times cookbook)
This recipe makes an excessive amount of pate, which I think is exactly enough. It will fill 2 standard loaf pans, or several smaller ones. Make it with a friend, and then you can share.
3/4 pound pork fat (you can get this from a butcher–we also used some duck fat in here which I think worked really well)
3/4 pound fatty prosciutto rind or more pork fat or bacon
1 pound ground veal
1 pound ground pork shoulder
1 pound ham, cube
1/2 pound chicken livers
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup cognac
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons white pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup flour
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the pans with the prosciutto rind, pork fat, or bacon.
Combine the 1/2 of the remaining pork fat with the veal, pork shoulder in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse to combine, and transfer to a mixing bowl. Combine the rest of the pork fat with the ham in the food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the chicken livers, garlic, cream, eggs, cognac, and 1/3 of the veal mixture to the bowl of the food processor. Combine until you have a uniform and relatively smooth mixture. Transfer to the mixing bowl with the rest of the veal mixture. Add the seasonings and flour, and mix with your hands.
Fill half of each pan with the mixture, then add sliced cornichons if you like. Top with the rest of the mixture, and pack it in. If you are using bacon to line the pans, fold it over the top of the pate. If you are using pork fat or prosciutto rind, pack it around the pate. The goal is to create a seal around the meat with the fat. Cover each pan with a double layer of aluminum foil and set them into a baking sheet with a high lip or a 9×13 baking pan. Fill the pan halfway with water, and bake for until the pate reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees. This will vary depending on the size of your pans, but start checking after 1 1/2 hours. Remove the pates from the oven, let them cool, and refrigerate. For the first day in the refrigerator, set a weight, such as a rock or a water bottle on the aluminum foil. This presses the pate to draw any fat out of the center. Pate that is still in its sealed fat layer is good for up to 10 days or so.