A blade needed sharpening, and a few weeks back I found myself in a good old-fashioned French hardware shop.
While waiting for the skinny guy in overalls with morning-cognac breath to take the gory chain-saw details, a simple earthenware pâté pot caught my eye and I had a sudden fantasy of myself in a flowing floral dress. There were no cobwebs in my hair or green aphids crawling on my skin.
I was surrounded by a lovingly well-behaved and appreciative family in the dappled sunny shade under the linden trees eating a neat little home-made pâté served with a cool and crisply acidic Cumberland jelly. There was heavy condensation on the crystal glasses filled with ice-cold sauterne. They all toasted my health.
The image was so perfect and powerful I bought the pot, and have been in a state of agitation ever since.
I know two actually-alive people who have made pâtés in their own kitchens (or so they claim) for me. Both (one rabbit and one foie gras) were delightful and delicious. Both were made in the winter months. Served with pickles and gooseberries, both were the centres of astonishing social events.
My trusty Larousse cookbook was a bit of a disappointment. The Country Foie Gras Pâté recipe is simplicity itself and calls for a huge (750g) goose liver which you chop up together with fresh fat belly of pork, pork suet and a piece of larding bacon. Truffles are optional—to be tossed in at will if you’re in the mood.
Apart from finding all the fatty ingredients, this seemed too straightforward, so I delved further into the dark and complex web world of liver pâtés.
I discovered to my horror that livers have veins that must be taken out. Somehow you have to butterfly-open the liver with your fingertips to present it with your herbs and spices. At some point you should soak it in salted water for a few hours to remove “impurities”. It is better to buy frozen rather than fresh foie gras, as it is “fresher”. After cooking you must press the concoction into a firm block using a precisely-cut piece of wood or cardboard and place weights on top. You must cool it for a day or two.
The “torchon method” is even more impressive and involves lengths of cheese cloth, twine, and several fridge hangings and alternative hot water / ice water dunkings.
The Larousse cookbook mentions strictly none of the above information. As the French Bible of cookery it is assumed that you have a genetic knowledge of the nitty-gritty underworld of pâté production.
My summertime pâté-idyll is fading fast in the actual sweltering heat. The family comes and goes–happily eating left-overs and drinking pop.
The pâté pot sits on the kitchen table gathering dust as I suck on an orange popsicle and consider it. I think there might be just the place for it in an upper kitchen cupboard somewhere north of the pasta machine.