Here’s the thing: the more I learn about French cooking, the more amazed I become with myself…and the more I realize…it’s just cooking. It’s not particularly difficult, let me tell you. For instance, a pâté or a terrine or a mousse when cooked in the French style?
It’s frickin’ meat loaf,ok?
There, I said it. Americans go to Betty Crocker and prepare a meat loaf and don’t get all giggy about it,but if you put a French accent on it, by calling it a terrine de campagne or a mousse, well….it must be just too hard. And maybe that’s where I am actually a bit different from other cooks: I. Don’t. Care.
Fail? Sure, it can happen. It has. But…so what? You learn from your errors, you correct and adjust, and the next time, it works better. But then, there is the other rub: people that fail once often don’t try again. Still, for reasons which confuse me. Fear? Of what? Ridicule? Embarrassment?
But it’s just French frickin’ meat loaf, boys and girls. Get over it.
In anticipation of my wife’s cousin and Belgian/Flemish husband coming to stay for a few days, it was time to pull out the stops. I’ve made French pates and terrines now several times, and so far, they have come out splendidly. The first one was vegetarian, if you can believe it. Another was a fruity one.
So it is doable. You can be fearless and try it.
A pâté with forcemeat (ground up meat) is pretty straightforward. In this case I started with sautéing a cup of onions, some garlic, thyme, and a bevy of herbs like bay leaf, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and allspice along with a couple of eggs and cream. Line a loaf pan with bacon (or caul fat if you want to be fancy) or just simply parchment paper (to keep the meat out of contact with the metal walls of your loaf pan) or use a terrine designed for it as I did.
Or in this case, use both, as I had a pile of extra meat to cook, so I used two little half-loaf pans to fill up. Put these in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight to let the meats blend with each other and the other herbs and ingredients.
Tomorrow I’ll bake the three of these in a Bain-marie (water bath) at 325F for 90 minutes to 2 hours. After letting them cool, I’ll put weights over each of them to press the meat down a bit. I’ll leave them in their containers for a few days (it will only make them taste better) and release them to our guests next week. This is perfectly safe so long as they are kept covered and wrapped.