Jason Hoffman/Thrillist
Food & Drink

Pâté Revisited

Published On 12/28/2017
T he cast-iron terrine took up space on the shelf for more than seven years, sitting there like a big blue brick, inert and largely undisturbed. Maybe I’d dusted it a few times, during seasonal cleaning frenzies. But I’d never once used it for its appointed purpose: to make pâté. Making pâté was Frank’s thing, not mine.
I know a lot of good cooks, and some great ones. Frank was the best home cook I’ve ever known. He had the skill, and he had the fire. He was both a natural, endowed with a perceptive, subtle palate, and an indefatigable student, always learning new techniques, always improving his skills, always expanding his repertoire. On one of our first dates, when I asked Frank about his interest in cooking, he explained to me that he had retreated to the kitchen as a teenager so he wouldn’t have to socialize much when his parents had dinner parties. In groups, he was often shy. Some of the guests were achievement-oriented in a way that Frank was not, and he didn’t want to field their questions about his grades and his college prospects; he would have much rather talked about Virginia Woolf or Thomas Pynchon. Aside from books, his major loves included baseball, punk rock -- and food.
T he Larousse Gastronomique says that in France “the word pâté on its own should, strictly speaking, be applied only to a dish consisting of a pastry case (shell) filled with meat, fish, vegetables, or fruit, which is baked in the oven and served hot or cold. The best English translation of this word is ‘pie.’” What Frank made was more precisely pâté en terrine -- generally speaking, a mixture of meats or game or fish with aromatics and often wine and sometimes even nuts and fruit, wrapped in fat (often bacon), and packed into a mold to bake -- which, per Larousse, “in common usage the French also call… pâté.”
F ood remained a pleasure for Frank after he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2008, but not quite the way it had been. Reflux was one of the symptoms of his illness, and it could dampen the joy of eating. Chemotherapy heightened his sensitivity to salt. Unlike many cancer patients, he never lost his appetite, but it had changed. He still craved rich, stinky cheese. He still loved the occasional special dinner out. But cancer is exhausting, and his energy and strength to cook waned. I spent Valentine’s Day of 2010 with him in his hospice room. There was a Baskin-Robbins around the corner. Our last meal together was milkshakes, which we drank while we watched the winter Olympics on TV. Frank died the next day.

Rustic Pâté, After Frank


  • 1 pound lean pork (I used top round), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 pound chicken livers, trimmed of fat and membrane
  • 6-8 slices bacon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup shelled, toasted, unsalted pistachios
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped shallots
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 ounce Cognac
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt


This recipe is inspired by my memories of how Frank made pâté -- and is liberally adapted from a recipe by the great Pierre Franey. I replace the veal (hard to find in my Brooklyn neighborhood) in his recipe with yet more pork. I amplify the spices. I flambé the livers in Cognac because it’s fun and because it tastes very good. I leave some livers whole because I love how they look when you cut into the terrine, contributing significantly to my “meat mosaic” ideal. Finally, and most crucially, I weigh the whole thing down overnight to compress it.

1. Cut a piece of cardboard to fit snugly on top of terrine mold; wrap cardboard in aluminum foil; set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

3. Put lean pork and two slices of the bacon in container of food processor and grind until slightly finer than store-bought hamburger meat. Transfer ground pork and bacon to a large mixing bowl.

4. Heat butter in a skillet and sauté shallots until soft. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Add chicken livers. Sprinkle with bay leaf and thyme. Cook two more minutes. Carefully add Cognac to pan (NOT directly from the bottle -- from a ramekin or measuring cup) and flambé by lighting with a long match. (Be sure there’s a lid nearby to put out the flames if they do not extinguish quickly.)

5. Take livers and shallots off heat. Set aside three or four whole livers.

6. Put liver and shallot mixture (not the whole livers you’ve set aside) into container of food processor and blend finely. Scrape the mixture into the mixing bowl with the pork. Add the cubed ham, pistachios, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne, wine, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. With very clean hands, blend the mixture well.

7. Make a small patty (about a tablespoon) of the mixture and cook it in a skillet to test for seasoning. Taste the cooked patty, and add more salt and/or pepper to the mixture accordingly.

8. Gently fold the whole livers set aside into the mixture, being careful to keep them whole.

9. Line a 5-6 cup ovenproof terrine with remaining bacon. Pack in the pâté mixture. Smooth the top, folding any overhanging bacon over it. Cover tightly with foil and lid (if terrine has one). Place terrine in a baking dish, and make a water bath by pouring in boiling water until it reaches about halfway up terrine. Bake for 45 minutes, or until internal temperature registers 150 degrees on a meat thermometer.

10. Remove pâté from oven, and remove from water bath. Place in another baking dish. Remove lid and foil, and place foil-wrapped cardboard on top. Weigh down with weights (or cans of beans). Allow the terrine to compress overnight (or for at least 8 hours) in the refrigerator.

11. Carefully unmold the pâté (an offset spatula might be helpful). Serve with a sliced baguette, Dijon mustard, and cornichons.
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