This recipe is adapted from the great little book, Charcuterie Specialties, by Jean-Claude Frentz and Michel Poulain. (One crucial thing to note about their recipes in this book is that the curing salt they use is one where the salt and sodium nitrite have already been blended in the right proportion. So while they call for 60 g of “curing salt,” that translates into 54 g of salt and 6 g of cure #1 in the US.) It’s fairly elaborate, and much easier to make with a heavy-duty commercial food processor, but it is absolutely worth the time and trouble it takes. One chef I served it to declared it was “the finest liver pâté ever!” and has had a standing order for it ever since.
The recipe seems crazy, I know, since so many others insist upon the importance of keeping everything cold or risk “breaking the emulsion,” while this one has you add piping hot fat directly to the meat mix. But it works. Every time. Basically you’re just jump-starting the cooking by adding the hot fat, so that the mix is already at 45 C when it goes into the terrines. It may also seem like an absurd ratio of fat, 2:1, but the pâté just tastes rich, porky, and silky smooth without being at all greasy.
It’s also crucial for the liver to be as fresh as possible. Don’t even bother trying it with frozen liver. When I make this, I go to the slaughterhouse when my pig is being processed and take the warm liver directly from the hands of the state inspector. This is important not only for the flavor, but also for the myosin protein fresh liver contains, which is crucial to bind the pâté together.
- 1 kg pork liver, as fresh as possible
- 2 kg soft pork fat, trimmed from the ham and belly
- 54 g salt
- 6 g cure #1
- 12 g sugar
- 6 g white pepper
- 3 g four spice
- 15 g powdered dried mushrooms (cepes, porcini, etc)
- 1 L whole milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/10 of a vanilla bean
- sprig of thyme
- 50 g carrots, sliced
- 20 g leek, white portion, sliced
- 20 g fresh parsley, chopped
- 100 g shallots, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 9 large eggs
- 90 g cornstarch
- 60 ml Madeira
- The day before, prepare the liver. Remove nerves, bile ducts, and any greenish spots, then rinse under cold water and pat dry. Cut into even size chunks, combine with all the seasonings, vacuum-seal if possible, and refrigerate overnight. (Combining the liver with the salt at least a day before making is crucial to extract the myosin that will bind the finished product.)
- On the day of, prepare the milk by bringing it to the boil with the vegetables and herbs. Let simmer for 20 minutes, until reduced to about 700 ml, then remove from the heat, cover, and let sit to infuse. (When ready to add to the mix, strain out the aromatics and bring the temperature back up to 60 C.)
- Cook the shallots in butter or lard until soft but not brown. Add the garlic near the end. Allow to cool.
- Bring a pot of water to the boil while you cut all the fat into roughly 1" cubes. Poach the fat in the water, keeping it at a simmer, for 5-10 minutes, until hot all the way through.
- In a commercial food processor (the recipe is scaled for a 5-quart, 3 hp Robot Coupe), combine the seasoned liver with the garlic and shallots and process at low speed for one minute.
- Turn the speed to high and add the eggs one at a time.
- Turn the machine off. Drain the hot cubes of fat, add them to the mix, and process on high until the mixture is smooth
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then with the machine on high, add the warm milk in a steady stream.
- Finally, with the machine running, add the starch, a little at a time, and then the Madeira.
- At this point, the mixture should be perfectly smooth and homogeneous and have the consistency of slightly runny pancake batter.
- Prepare the terrines by lining them with cling film. (A little water in the molds will help the flim to cling. Lining the terrines with barding fat is also an option.)
- Pour the batter into the terrines (it will fill three 500 ml terrines) and place them in a hot water bath. The water bath can be kept hot in a low oven (90 C) or more precisely with a sous vide immersion pump and heater set to 77 C. Cook until an interior temperature of 72 C is reached, about one and a half to two hours.
- Allow the terrines to cool at room temperature for one hour and then refrigerate.
- To unmold, gently pull at the cling film to release and remove in one piece.