September Challenge: Packing!

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All year long, we'll be hosting Charcutepalooza, the meat extravaganza masterminded by bloggers Cathy Barrow (our own MrsWheelbarrow) and Kim Foster.

Each month brings a new challenge (e.g. duck prosciutto, salt curing), and a new roundup of the best posts -- which we'll feature on Food52. Charcutepalooza will culminate in a competition offering an amazing grand prize (details here). You can see a list of past challenges here, read the rules here, and see a list of the bloggers who've signed on here.

Read on below for Cathy's breakdown of September's challenge: Packing!

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september challenge. packing.

by Cathy on August 15, 2011

Post image for september challenge. packing.

We’ve just returned from a few fantastic days spent floating down the Rhine river valley, and traveling the Routes des Vins d’Alsace. I peered into every charcuterie shop, checked out every butcher. Oh, don’t worry. I did not overlook the vegetables. Or the cheeses. Or pastries.

I stopped at markets and chatted up the people selling meats under cheerful red umbrellas. Struck up conversations. Snacked on picnic sized saussicon sec. I wanted to experience it all. The pride in their art is evident in every bite.

Look at those pretty pastry covered patés. That’s when the inspiration struck for this month’s challenge.

The Apprentice Challenge: Paté Campagne OR Paté Gratinée (ex: Pork Terrine with Pork Tenderloin Inlay)
The Charcutiere Challenge: Paté Gratinée en Croute OR English Pork Pie

Post on the 15th. Tag your post charcutepalooza and we’ll be sure to see it. Share your blog post with Punk Domestics. Cross post and upload photos on Charcutepalooza’s Facebook page and Flickr page. And don’t forget to share all those great original recipes on Food52.


Is any charcuterie platter complete without a paté? So many to choose from and so much to consider. All pork? Pork with veal, or perhaps, rabbit? Surprise inlays nestled inside.

The texture, from the rough and tumble paté campagne, the elegance of a paté gratinée – smooth, wine-spiked terrine formed around a seared meat; or, the drama of paté en croute.

The moment of any paté’s unmolding can only be enhanced in one way. With clever pastry wraps and decorations. Here is the opportunity to show us your stuff. Get flashy with pastry cut outs.

Make a flaky crust using good lard. Render it yourself, if you can.

My pies always have stars.

Your biggest challenge in making a paté is packing it into the terrine. It must be packed tight, with no air in the mix, or it will dry out. Pastry or not.

Then, after your patés sit in the refrigerator and develop their flavors, invite some people over. A few people. Have a meat party. Consider the cocktails carefully. I recommend a French G&T, with Hendricks Gin, St. Germaine and lime.

Get out the pickles. Paté wants pickles. And mustards.

(If you are very lucky, you will have a couple of art directors in the house. And your photos might look a little better than usual. Thank you, Paul, Elaine, Bill, Gabby, Gilles.)

Paté Campagne

Perhaps now, after eight months of challenges, you have collected a container of pieces of pork in the freezer. Maybe there is a hunk of bacon somewhere? Bits and pieces of this and that will make for a great paté.

As always, keep your bowls, grinding parts, terrines and meats super cold. Use the medium disk, not the smallest, and not the largest. If you only have two disks, choose the larger one. The texture of this paté is coarse.

The goodies you stir in can be anything, but do include some fatty smoked or cured meat. It will ensure the pate is unctuous enough to hold together. I love to include dried fruit, in this case, gorgeous Agen prunes from Kate Hill.

Once the pan is out of the oven, weight the paté with a can or two, and let it rest in the refrigerator for a couple of days. This is when the flavors really develop, so don’t be afraid to let it sit for four or five days. You must eat it all within a week, though, as patés do not freeze well.

Warm the outside of the mold to release the pate.

Paté Campagne? with Gascony on my Mind
One small terrine

1 T butter
1 T minced garlic
2 T minced shallots
1/4 c minced onion
1 T fresh thyme leaves
1/4 c Armagnac
1 lb. pork shoulder, cubed (or, this is a great way to use leftover bits and pieces)
1 bay leaves
1/8 tsp ground all spice
1/4 tsp coarsely ground pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 lb. pancetta or ventreche, diced
8 large, moist, pitted prunes

Mix the pork with the bay leaves and allspice, salt and pepper. Allow to rest in the refrigerator an hour, or overnight.

Remove the bay leaves and place the pork in the freezer for 90 minutes.

In a sauté pan, heat the butter and when the foam subsides, add the garlic, shallot, onion and thyme. Cook gently until everything is wilted.

Add the Armagnac, flame it, and then reduce by half. Let this mixture cool.

Grind the semi-frozen meat into the bowl of your electric mixer, resting in a bowl of ice.

Set the bowl into the mixer with the paddle attachment, add the onion mixture, and mix well.

Test a little of the mixture for seasoning. Remember that foods served cold need more aggressive seasoning.

Stir in the prunes and pancetta/ventreche.

Pack the mixture into the chilled terrine. It must be packed tight, or it won’t set well. I was taught to make small walnut-sized amounts and throw them into the terrine. With vigor! This will get the air out of the mixture.

Use your best judgement about throwing meat mixtures, but pack the terrine well.

Top with parchment and then with foil.

Place the terrine in a bain marie and bake at 350° until it is cooked all the way through, and a thermometer registers 170°, about two hours.

Let it cool completely, then place a three pound weight on the parchment paper and weigh it down. Store in the refrigerator for one to two days before serving.

Unmold by dipping the terrine in hot water to loosen the pate, which should come out smoothly in one piece.

Paté Gratinée

It seemed appropriate to carefully read Julia Childs MtAoFC on patés and especially the “en croute” part of the equation. I encourage you to do the same. Julia has some amazing ideas about patés with inlays.

The pork terrine in Charcuterie is exquisite. It’s light and rich at the same time. We had no Madiera, so substituted Port. I also substituted my own Paté Spice, and encourage you to tinker with a mix to find a combination that’s just right for you.

We did not use the pink salt, thus the dark color.

Perhaps you’re feeling flush this month – you could put foie gras in the center. Or veal strips marinated in cognac. But whatever you decide to put there must be seared. And the better the sear, the better the flavor that infuses the paté as it rests.

Paté en Croute

If you’re going for the Charcutiere challenge, you’ll need to make pastry. And then make a pate gratinée. Do not feel obligated to use a terrine form as in the book. I saw many free form patés en croute when I was travelling. Just make sure your pastry is amazing.

I could only make one pate en croute, so opted for the English Pork Pie, which I highly recommend. The crust, made with lard, is fantastic – flaky and satisfying and reasonably easy to work with. Naturally, I decorated with stars. It’s sort of my signature.

The meat mixture is distinctly different than the French patés, making it a nice second course for the Meat party – after the paté course, naturally.

The English pork pie got the best of me in one respect. There should have been a space between the meat and pastry, once baked, in which to pour an aspic layer. I had no space at the top in which to pour the aspic, instead there was a space just inside the pastry ringing the bottom, with no way to get the aspic in there.

I ended up making a sheet pan of aspic (demi-glace of roasted veal, chicken stock, and sheet gelatin), then cutting little stars, to mirror the stars on the pie. They were tasty enough, but unnecessary, in my opinion.

I think we were all surprised at how delicious the pork pie was. It was visually striking, but we were a bit suspicious. Lo and behold, it’s terrific. Not at all the meatloaf I feared.

So go for it. Form a paté and put it in pastry, or not, as you wish.

Spreading the Word

We’ve been making beautiful meats together for months now. Hasn’t it made you appreciate even more what others are doing?

While we are seeing an artisanal food explosion in the US, there could be so much more. That’s why I’ve been following the Good Food Awards since last year’s stellar selections. It’s their second year, and you’re the perfect people to ask – do you know someone who is making food for sale – perhaps at your farm market? A shop in your town?

The Good Food Awards are looking for nominations for products being produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Between now and September 1st, food producers can submit their artisanal beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, pickles and preserves for a blind tasting. You must have your favorite producers in your area? Let them know about these awards. Last year’s winners had great things happen. Find out more.

Tasting the foods of different regions is certainly one of my favorite things about European travel. To learn to make it? That’s heaven. Next winter, when it’s gray and gloomy, you could travel the Adriatic coast of Italy with Sean Timberlake, the original Punk Domestic, as guide and host? And learn to make salume with one of the great norcino? Sign up, and do it soon, before they’re all sold out.

Charcutepalooza loves our sponsors. D’Artagnan , generously offering 25% off the meat-of-the-month. If you aren’t receiving your email with the secret code for Charcutepalooza members, register here. And the trip to France – an awesome grand prize deliciously designed by Trufflepig and Kate Hill at Camont. Love to Kinetic Web Solutions and @CreativCulinary who helps us navigate technology. And, Armagnac CASTAREDE, providing celebratory Armagnac to our Grand Prize winner’s party in Paris.