“Pâté en croûte”: the return of an old French classic

“Pâté en croûte”: the return of an old French classic

That Pate en croute has returned to French cuisine after crossing and being ravaged by the desert pies industrial. It was considered old-fashioned food, at a time when France’s importance as a gastronomic power was eclipsing some of the more home-cooked facets of its gastronomy, while the more inaccessible haute cuisine prevailed. Then came the boom of blogs and nostalgia with Grandma’s recipe book in hand, and just as we were questioning it remember Impossible, a global pandemic has locked us at home and, for whatever reason, made us cook instead of other things. And “pie with a crust” is back in fashion. There was a breeding ground before: social networks love dishes with golden cuqui and this preparation is very different due to its color and variety.

Despite this homely appearance up close, this batter-wrapped meatloaf is a really difficult traditional cured product. The mechanic involves shredding different types of meat into larger pieces with either a knife or meat grinders and combining them with some bacon and other fats. Everything is allowed: veal, pork and poultry as well as endless magrets, foie gras, gizzards, mushrooms and nuts, which give the filling a very visual note in addition to the taste.

The glue consists of eggs, some cream and usually Armagnac, but also other fragrant ones like brandy, port, spices and herbs, in quantities and proportions that are such that the whole thing doesn’t dry out. The key is, as in all cook slowly, The longer you marinate the filling the better: usually a day or two, depending on the recipe. Then comes the assembly, the really difficult part, with a kind of shortcrust pastry made of butter, eggs, flour and little more. It needs to be consistent and crisp to support the building but without ever being a lump. It is made with a special form, better if it is removable, because it makes the process a little easier, although in most homemade versions a classic oblong cake or biscuit form is allowed. Overall, it can take several days to make and is consumed after resting at room temperature.

Where does it come from

The origin starts again from the kitchen of use and conservation, particularly in the Middle Ages. Its own structure is only designed to protect itself from the outside and therefore last longer. That pies They’ve historically been used to use up leftover meat in butcher shops, although the crust is also eaten and provides a different texture that breaks with the general dynamic and is more fun for us.

Another key element is gelatin. Usually, the portion of the pie shrinks during baking, leaving a gap between the filling and the pie dough coat (literally it means scab, although it’s a bit odd in Spanish). That’s where that odd layer comes in, which is usually scented and serves to further protect the meat from the outside, and again for eating. After cooling, the gel is introduced through chimneys placed at the top of the batter, increasing the difficulty and therefore the magic.

The forbidden or not

When asked which ingredients are allowed and which are not, Eric Basset – one of the chefs who promoted this Pate en croute in Spain with the permission of Albert Boronat-, explains that in his opinion almost anything can be used, although personally he prefers to limit the use of game or very strong meat and all elements that are not of good quality. “Bad products, no”, sentence.

“Be a product gourmand, used as an appetizer or as a first snack with a wine at a meeting with friends, the idea is not to use things that give a lot of presence. The dish itself is already quite complete and with different textures to add extreme sensations to it,” he explains. Remember that the whole thing needs to be compact so it doesn’t fall apart when you cut the cake with the knife. As such, there are products like tomatoes or asparagus that cannot function as is, despite being used in various canned dried versions, Basset adds.

Nicolas Verot of Maison Verot, a chain in Paris specializing in delicatessen Pies in batter, terrines and the like, believes that sweets or those made from fish are relatively new and accepted in the club. In the book he made with his father Terrines, rillettes, sausages and pies en croûte (Planeta Gastro), for example, includes a Kouliblanc style with salmon and spinach that is reminiscent of Wellington roast beef. They also have some fully vegetable-bound with gelatin or mono-themed with a single meat. “What has evolved is the contemporary interpretation of the dish, and so it is being done to be in tune with our times (eating less but better quality meat, seasonality, animal ethics, etc.),” he adds. For his part, Basset has an order at Bistrot Bilou in central Barcelona, ​​which runs the apple tatin in crout and on the internet, depending on your perspective, you can find real tricks or shame, such as the brownie in crust. In the end it is still a dish somewhere between a pastry shop and a butcher shop.

That hype

It is a dish consumed in an informal atmosphere and very typical of Christmas. Despite this, the French have used it both for a silly picnic on a spring Sunday on any patch of grass, for outings or for tapas with fine charcuterie. Pickles or other pickles and a small salad accompaniment and good bread are almost never missing. Suitable for white and red wine, of course. It is usually cut into slices between 1.5 and at most two centimeters, and if necessary Foie gras, the fun part is to cut it in four so everyone can have some as it usually goes in the middle. It’s kept cold, but ideally it’s better to temper it by taking it out of the fridge for a while before serving.

According to all respondents, there is a turning point for the Pate en croute to the pop phenomenon: the international world championship, which gave free rein to the chefs competing for attention. “The image is also crucial because it is undoubtedly the most visual type of cured meat and the one with the greatest aesthetic freedom. From the dough to the filling, we have an almost infinite field of expression!” adds Verot.

It started in 2009 and has evolved with geographical categories. There is an American team, a European team, a Japanese team and soon there will also be Tahiti. Hundreds of chefs want to win the title of world champion because it really helps them to increase their visibility and sales, and it has already been won 5 times by Japanese chefs, great lovers of meticulousness, including the last edition of 2021. Basset believes in it this challenge It encourages visual creations and this aspect adds spectacularity to the dish, thus giving it continuity beyond the table.

Julien Perret, a young charcuterie influencer behind the @pâté_croûte_france Instagram account with nearly 25,000 followers, knows this well: quite an achievement considering the only content is meatloaf. Perret strives to ensure that there is a story behind every cake and that it tells something about the chef who makes it. He says he created the profile in 2018 and since then his mission has been to show that it’s not an old-fashioned product. “It’s super classy and has nothing to do with what you find in department stores in France,” he explains. His idea of ​​spreading didn’t stop there and he also decided to create the mascot Jean Croûte – without shame or fear of it wince-, including Instagram filters. He’s also after another jab offline: the first non-professional competition to be held in Paris this year and which he is looking forward to, he says.

Beyond the image and presentation of the competition and networks, Verot’s theory draws on several strong points to justify his return to grace: “First, it is a charcuterie and therefore a product that is anchored in the collective imagination of the French is. Secondly, it is also a pastry and therefore mixes aromas and flavors. The mass is very important because people can identify it better. Many do not know that terrines, for example, are almost the same, only that they are not coated. With those factors, he adds, it’s logical that it’s even become part of status menus. Two very clear examples are a mythical dinner between Macron and Trump in 2017 in the Eiffel Tower or last summer when the French President and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel said goodbye when they retired last summer. Going from the bistro to the diplomatic tablecloth is social advancement, the rest is nonsense.