Pates have been the staple of French chefs. They provide an opportunity to display the imagination and skill of and ambitious chef. Contrary to many restaurant patrons, pates are delicate, fine, exquisite specialties that require great culinary skill and passion to create. They consist of finely ground livers of: chicken, pigs, ducks, geese, and calves, flavoured with herbs, spices, wild mushrooms, wine, brandy, and in some rare instances, with black truffles from Perigord, in France.
Pates are baked in terrines lined with lard, or special forms lined with pastry. A terrine is a square or oval crock specially designed for baking pates or terrines (more about terrines later).
Pastry encased pates are finer in texture than terrines, but after baking must be protected by using gelatine. During baking, the pate mass shrinks; chefs fill the gap with gelatine to exclude air, to prevent moulding and drying out.
There is coarse pate de champagne (country pates) and those refined and fine textured produced from fattened goose livers, or duck or pig. The latter may contain cognac, port wine or truffles.
Goose liver pates are produced from fattened goose livers are extremely refined, melt-in-the-mouth products that can be seductive. Since force-feeding geese is a time-consuming proposition, these pates are more expensive than regular products.
Before Europeans set foot on the American continent, geese were fattened with died figs. Today mashed corn mixed with water replaces the expensive dried fig diet. French invented the pate and are the largest consumers of this delicacy, and export many of their finest products to the U K, U S A, Canada, Germany and Japan. The popularity of force-fed goose liver pate prompted many geese farms in Quebec, New York State and California (Sonoma County) to produce this high-demand and high-end product. However, no attempt has been made to produce pâté. Force-fed goose livers are sold to high-end restaurants and some grocery stores for people who enjoy them seared and served with rare sauces and Sauternes or other sweet wines. Industrial pate production in France occurs in Perigord and Strasbourg.
These days, most of the fattened goose liver is imported from Poland, Hungary and Israel. These countries sell fattened goose liver for much less than French farmers can. Goose liver pate may be just that, truffled, flavoured with cognac in mousse or parfait form, or bloc mostly used in restaurants. Parfait de foie gras contains milk powder, egg yolks, and may or may not contain chopped truffles.
Mousse de foie gras is a liver pate that has been whipped therefore has a lighter texture. Pate de foie gras is fully cooked and ready to service, pate de foie gras truffle contains bits, – au Cognac or au Armagnac, are flavoured with Cognac or Armagnac, or au Porto with Port. Occasionally, pates are packaged in attractive crocks to serve as individual portions or for gift baskets. Simple pates are reduced using pig or calf’s liver or fattened duck liver.
Galantines consist of finely ground poultry or feathered game, herbs, spices, wines or spirits. The finely blended mixture is pleased into special forms or stuffed into the skin of the bird, tightly trussed, and poached in an appropriately flavoured stock. Galantines may be studded with pistachios for additional visual effect and a pleasant taste dimension.