Saturday, December 6, 2008

Charcuterie Plates

Whereas antipasto platters may include marinated vegetables and cheeses in addition to cured ham and sausages, charcuterie deals strictly in meat. It's more closely related to the Italian salumi platter, but with a French twist: Charcuterie offerings go beyond cured meats and sausage to include pâtés and terrines, flanked by specialty mustards, French olives and other pickled or preserved sides.
The tradition originated as a way to preserve pork, but evolved to include duck, goose or chicken liver, and other meats such as veal and game.

You can make a quick, bourbon-spiked chicken liver pâté up to two weeks ahead.
Originally, pâtés were baked in pastry, and terrines were cooked in a special mold. Over the years, the pastry was replaced by a mold, but we continue to call it pâté.
Pâté traditionally has a smooth consistency, versus the chunkier texture of terrines. The coarse-textured terrines are sold as country pâtés. They're made of artfully layered ingredients: seasoned chunks of meats such as pork, venison or rabbit; fat for flavor, moisture and preservation; and sometimes nuts such as pistachios, for texture and appearance.

French salamis and sausages may look just like the Italian variety, but they're seasoned very differently. The French-style salami isn't as spicy as the Italian variety.

No charcuterie platter is complete without relishes such as cornichons (tiny French-style pickles), French olives (picholine or Niçoise) and tiny cocktail onions.
Other possible relishes include pickled caperberries, bottled onion chutney or relish and, if you have some left over from Thanksgiving, an onion-cranberry compote to accompany a coarse, country pâté. The idea is to balance the pâté flavors with something salty, savory and maybe even a little sweet.

Cornichons (2012151)
Caperberries (6333587)
Mango Chutney (2335917)
Jamaican Relish (6355069)
Picholine (75705)
Nicoise (74930)
Whole Grain Mustard (7330202)

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (divided use; if making in ramekins, you will need up to an extra stick of butter) (703157)
1 cup finely chopped onion (6007348)
1 cup large garlic clove, minced(7489339)
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried (7326325)
1 teaspoon minced fresh marjoram or ¼ teaspoon dried (355289)
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage or ¼ teaspoon dried (4326336)
1 teaspoon salt (773473)
¼ teaspoon black pepper (6501175)
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice (7605536)
1 pound chicken livers trimmed (6399257)
2 tablespoons bourbon
Accompany with toasted baguette slices (6331219)
Garnish with fresh herbs

Melt 1 stick butter in a large nonstick skillet over moderately low heat, then cook onion and garlic, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add herbs, salt, pepper, allspice and livers and cook, stirring, until livers are cooked outside but still pink when cut open, about 8 minutes. Stir in bourbon and remove from heat.
Purée mixture in a food processor until smooth, then transfer pâté to a 2 ½ -cup crock, or 4 (8-ounce) ramekins, leaving a little room at the top for the seal made of clarified butter. Smooth top with a knife.

Melt remaining 1/2 stick butter in a very small heavy saucepan over low heat, then remove pan from heat and let butter stand 3 minutes. (If you are using several small ramekins instead of one crock, you will need more clarified butter.)
If using herb garnish, put a sprig on top of pâté. Skim froth from butter, then spoon enough clarified butter over pâté to cover its surface, leaving milky solids in bottom of pan.

Chill pâté until butter is firm, about 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and chill at least several hours more, preferably a day or two ahead of time. Pâté can be chilled up to 2 weeks. Once butter seal has been broken, pâté keeps, its surface covered with plastic wrap and chilled, 1 week. Recipe may be halved.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Note: Though this pâté can be eaten the day it's made, it's more flavorful when made 1 or 2 days ahead. If you use several small ramekins instead of a pâté crock or terrine, you may need more clarified butter to seal the tops.

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