Both rustic and refined, Pâté de Campagne, or country pâté, could be called the cornerstone of charcuterie. Every chef worth their salt has his or hers own take on this French classic. We compare two cooking methods: the traditional bain-marie and modern sous vide.
The following represents a collaboration between Our Daily Brine and New York-based chef, Evan Brady. Evan, owner of Craft Butchers’ Pantry, and I met through the Sausage Debauchery group on Facebook (an excellent group, if you’re interested in making salumi). Evan and I share an obvious love for all things charcuterie and salumi, but found our common interests delve much deeper into the scientific approach and understanding of gastronomy. This recipe for pâté de Campagne was developed by Evan.
It’s a Farce
Pâté de Campagne’s humble beginnings can be traced back to medieval Europe, when it was common to cook a farce—or “magic meat mix”, as Julia would say—of chopped meat(s), fat and seasoning inside a pastry crust or fat-lined earthenware. Throughout the centuries French cooks have refined the preparation of pâtés and terrines. The variations of pâté span the gamut of refinement: from rustic, hand-chopped offal to decadent variations incorporating foie gras or truffle garnish.
Farce (def.): A highly seasoned mixture containing chopped meat, forcemeat is an alteration of farcemeat, “stuffing,” and has a synonym—farce. Farce first meant forcemeat stuffing and came to be used metaphorically when a humorous play was “stuffed” in between two more serious acts of the main theatrical presentation.1
In common vernacular a terrine is typically served from the terrine it was molded in, where a pâté is unmolded and served as a sliced loaf. According to the bible of French gastronomy, Larousse Gastonomique, “the word pâté on its own should, strictly speaking, be applied only to a dish consisting of a pastry case (pie shell) filled with meat, fish, vegetables or fruit … a pâté en terrine is a meat, game or fish preparation put into a dish (terrine) lined with bacon, cooked in the oven and always served cold.” They go on to say “The correct French abbreviation of this is terrine, but in common usage the French also call it a pâté.”2 — needless to say, the terms are often used synonymously.
De Campagne Deconstructed
Pâté de Campagne takes many forms. At its core it is a mixture of ground meats; pork and veal are classic, occasionally with ham, or as in this recipe, bacon—and always with liver. Unlike a liver pâté, pâté de Campagne uses liver as a flavoring, not the focus. Meats are typically chopped, or ground with a meat grinder, for the characteristic coarse texture of a country pâté. Spices often include garlic, thyme, cloves, nutmeg, mace, ginger, coriander, cinnamon and white/black pepper, and more. Interior garnish is also common; examples being: nuts, like walnuts or pistachios, dried fruits like cherries, figs or apricots, or the classic and coveted truffle.
Method comparison: bain-marie (left) and sous vide (right); the sous vide method produced a visibly more compact, even textured pâté
A Modern French Method: Sous Vide
The classic French method of preparing pâté en terrine is by bain-marie. A more modern—yet still French—method for preparing pâté is by cooking en sous vide. Sous vide is, arguably, the better method. The concept is the same: slow, gentle cooking, in a water bath. In a traditional bain-marie we often use some fashion of weight, post cooking, to compress the pâté as it cools. One of the benefits of sous vide, literally “under vacuum”, is that a vacuum is used to seal and compress the farce—both as it cooks and as it cools. Additionally, sous vide allows for more precise cooking; we are able to set the water bath to a precise 150ºF/65.5ºC and cook the pâté to equilibrium, never exceeding or overcooking, and allowing for controlled pasteurization.3
Notes on Sous Vide
Sous vide literally refers to cooking “under vacuum”. Sous vide as a term is commonly used to describe the method of cooking with an immersion circulator to precisely control a water bath, regardless if the food has been vacuum sealed or not (eggs are a good example of this). Cooking pâté en sous vide should always be done with a vacuum-sealed terrine. A chamber sealer is ideal, as you can adjust the pressure to high, remove all of the oxygen and tightly compress the pâté. An edge sealer, like a FoodSaver, also works well. The examples shown here are all done with a FoodSaver.
In the past couple years, lower-cost immersion circulators have come to market. Previously, to cook sous vide required a significant investment in equipment. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. One of the first lower-cost—yet ample powered—circulators introduced was the Nomiku (pictured upper right). I prefer the Nomiku over the other sub-$300 competitors (several of which I own). It’s by far the smallest, yet powerful enough to keep a uninsulated 5+ gallon/19 Liter water bath within 0.1ºF of target temp. That’s pretty amazing.
Terrine or Loaf Pan:
When cooking en bain-marie, the best results are had with a dedicated vessel like a Le Creuset terrine; with sous vide there is no benefit. If cooking sous vide, the type and size of terrine does not matter, as long as it fits in your bath. Here we’ve used small non-stick loaf pans commonly found at most grocery stores. The size is perfect for a charcuterie board.
Visible vacuum compression in the finished, chilled pate
Cooking time is wholly dependent upon the size of terrine you use. In order to effectively pasteurize the pâté, it must be cooked until the core registers 150ºF/65.5ºC. After core temperature is reached it must be held at temp for at least 1 minute and 10 seconds, allowing for a 6.5D reduction in Salmonella (3).
One of the benefits of cooking sous vide is that it’s not possible to overcook the pâté. The mini loaf pans took slightly more than 2 hours to reach core temperature. If you are unable to monitor the temp with a probe, then you should cook at least 2.5 hours or more for the same size loaf pan and longer the larger the pan. If using an edge sealer (not a chamber sealer), you can always remove the terrine from the bath, cut open the bag and take a reading. If it has not reached temp, you can reseal and cook for longer. Repeat the process until temp has been reached. If you use a bag with additional length, you can simply reseal the same bag. Note: Food sealed in a chamber sealer should always be chilled before sealing, or it will boil.
Monitoring Core Temperature:
The best way to monitor core temperature of any protein cooked sous vide is with a very accurate thermometer called a thermocouple. I use the ThermoWorks TW8060 with a PTFE/FEP tip probe to monitor the water bath, and a miniature needle probe to monitor the pâté temp. The TW8060 thermometer is excellent and allows for a huge array of different type of probes. It’s well worth the relatively small investment.
To monitor temp while under pressure, you will need a needle-thin probe and some sort of high-density foam tape (like the kind used to seal doors and windows). If using an edge sealer, be sure to seal the pâté with the smooth surface of the bag facing up. Use rubbing alcohol to clean the surface where you will apply the tape, let dry. The clean surface will aid in adherence of the tape and prevent contamination when inserting the probe. Clean your probe with alcohol and insert it through the tape. It will retain the vacuum. Handle carefully as you lower into the bath.
The Bain-Marie Method
If you do not have access to the equipment to cook sous vide, excellent results can still be had by cooking in a bain-marie; no doubt, the French, among others, have done so for hundreds of years. Here’s the basic method:
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC with convection; or 400ºF/200ºC without.
- Follow the directions (below) until you reach the point of cooking sous vide.
- Tightly wrap the top of the terrine or loaf pan in aluminum foil.
- Prepare your water bath. Use an oven-proof vessel, like a high-sided roasting pan; big enough to hold your terrine and allow for a good amount of water to surround it.
- Place the filled terrine into a high-sided roasting pan and add enough hot water (as hot as your tap will go) to within an inch of the top of the terrine.
- Transfer bain-marie to preheated oven.
- Immediately turn oven down to 250ºF/120ºC, with convection; or 275ºF/135ºC without.
- Begin checking temperature after 30 min. (I monitor temperature in real-time using the wireless iGrill thermometer); when checking temperature, do so by piercing the foil with the thermometer, which prevents the heat from escaping.
- Cook until center/middle of the pâté registers 150ºF/66ºC.
- Remove the pâté from the oven, and allow to cool for 1 hour, remaining covered by foil; the temperature should stay at 150ºF/66ºC for 15+ min., then start to decline.
- Holding at a temperature of 150ºF/65.5ºC for at least 1 minute and 10 seconds allows for a 6.5D reduction in Salmonella 3
- Weight the terrine as it cools (I use a cleaned brick, wrapped in aluminum foil); this will compress the pâté and impart the desired, uniform texture.
- While pâté cools, prepare a shallow ice bath for chilling
- After an hour of cooling at room temperature, place the terrine in the ice bath and chill for an extra hour.
- Remove foil from terrine, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator
- Chill overnight
Serve the pâté de Campagne cold, allowing a day to fully set and develop flavor. Cornichons and a good dijon mustard are typical accoutrements and I almost always serve pickled mustard seeds. When I have them on hand, I love the fat-cutting-acidity of a pickled green tomato.
Oh, and a French baguette. You simply cannot serve a Campagne without a proper baguette. Bon appétit!
Pâté de Campagne Preparation:
1. “Farce”, Farlex Dictionary, 2012
2. “Pâté.” New Concise Larousse Gastronomique. Rev. and updated ed. London: Hamlyn, 2007. 760-761. Print.
3. Myhrvold, Nathan, and Chris Young. “Extended and Simplified 6.50 Salmonella Reduction Table.” Modernist cuisine. Köln: Taschen, 2011. Volume 1, 193. Print.
- 900g Pork Butt, coarse ground
- 600g to 1,000g Bacon; 300g small dice, plus enough to line loaf pan(s) (approx. 300g+)
- 125g Pork liver
- 125g Chicken liver
- 125g Pork kidney
- 100g Onion, puréed
- 2 Eggs, whole
- 125mL Congac
- 125mL Heavy cream
- 5 Garlic cloves, minced
- 35g Sea Salt
- 15g Piment d’Esplette, or similar red pepper flake
- 3g Cure #1 (optional; retains color and enhances flavor)
- 5g Fresh Thyme Leaves
- 3g Black pepper, ground
- 1g Nutmeg, ground
- 1g Mace, ground
- 1g Cloves, ground
- 3 Bay leaves, ground
- 6g Green Peppercorns in Brine, drained
- 90g Pistachios, roasted, chopped coarse (optional); and/or Black Truffles (optional)
- Freeze grinder attachments and bowl prior to preparing ingredients
- Remove all veins and sinew from pork livers, chicken livers and pork kidney; chill until near freezing.
- Puree onion and garlic cloves.
- Reserve Piment d’Esplette. Grind all remaining dry spices with Cure #1; combine reserved Piment d’Esplette with ground spices
- Whisk the cream, cognac and eggs together until smooth. Add ground spice to mixture and whisk well until evenly distributed
- Using 6mm plate, grind chicken livers, pork livers and kidney into chilled bowl.
- Combine cream mixture with ground meat, incorporating diced bacon, and mix thoroughly to create bind.
- Line six 5”x3” loaf pans with the bacon slices.
- Pack the farce into the loaf pans, packing down tightly to remove air pockets. Wrap overhanging bacon over top of packed farce.
- Tightly wrap the entire loaf pans in plastic wrap. Using a vacuum sealer, seal the plastic wrapped loaf pan.
- Cook en sous vide at 150ºF/65.5ºC for approx. 2 hours and 30 minutes, or until the core reads said temperature; allow to cook at core temp for at least two minutes or more
- Remove the pâté from the water bath and allow to cool for 1 hour, remaining vacuum sealed.
- While pâté cools, prepare an ice bath for chilling.
- After an hour of cooling at room temperature, submerge the vacuum-sealed pâté in the ice bath and chill for an extra hour.
- Transfer pâté, still in vacuum bag, to refrigerator. Allow to chill overnight.