Commentary by Mark LaFay
When I was a kid, there was a cheese shop in the Fashion Mall that had an absurd number of cheeses, meats and other gourmet items. Much of it was imported because in the mid-‘80s, there simply wasn’t a large number of domestic producers cranking out stinky cheese, salamis or spreadable meats. My mom used to take us to the cheese shop and we would crush their “Sicilian cheese” samples while she was perusing the case. More often than not, we would go home with a package of pungent cheese, French pâté, and some Walker’s Shortbread cookies (mom’s favorite).
This early exposure to unique textures and flavors shaped my palate and set my trajectory for food exploration and appreciation. You might be thinking, “Pâté?” Yes, pâté.
The French are largely believed to be the originators of pâté (originally ‘patete’). It was developed as a means of preserving meat. Pâté is typically prepared inside a crust, and this is called pâté en croute. If pâté is prepared outside of a crust and just in a terrine, then it is pâté en terrine. Pâté can be smooth and creamy topped with a gelatinous substance called aspic. It can also be coarse with pieces of chopped, shredded or coarsely ground meat. I think pâté has a sordid reputation because it often, but not always, utilizes organ meat. But this isn’t grandma’s liver and onions. So, leave the expectations at the door.
There are countless types and styles of pâté that makes its application truly diverse. You can take your pâté sweet or savory, before or after dinner. Country-style pork pate with mustard and cornichons, or pâté de fois gras with fig jam and toast.
This weekend, be brave and try some spreadable meat. Try a creamy smooth pâté like Olympia Provisions’ Pork Liver Mousse (short for mousseline) or get your country on with Indianapolis’ own Smoking Goose Pig and Fig Terrine!