Pâté is a meat-based paste that is typically associated with France, but is popular all around the world. It can be eaten with bread and spread to the desired thickness, or it is sometimes baked into a pie with a crunchy crust, as per tradition.
The latter dish is called pâté en croûte, and is served as a starter to accompany main dishes. Pâté without pastry resembles meatloaf and often contains similar ingredients.
You will often see pâté offered in restaurants with bread or crackers, and it may be eaten either hot or cold (though usually cold). There are different flavors of pâté, so it is quite versatile to suit your personal taste.
It mostly consists of various spices as well as the meat, to offset its rich flavor and make it perfectly balanced. Here, we explore how pâté is made and give you some ideas of how to enjoy it best.
Traditionally French pâté resembles a pork pie, with a hard crust on the outside and a thick meat filling inside. It is made in a terrine, which is the name of both a ceramic cooking dish and the foods that are made using it.
This way of serving pâté is seen by many as being more palatable than the fully meat version, because the pastry provides an ideal coating to surround the meat layer.
That said, other types of pâté aren’t eaten on their own, and bread carries out a similar function with spreadable pâté.
The pâté many people know and love today usually comes in shallow tubs or jars, available in the refrigerated section of a grocery store.
This must be eaten in the first 7 days of opening the pack, but you can keep it unopened for 2 weeks. Pack sizes differ, but commonly contain 160-180g of the meat paste.
A lot of pâté uses pork liver meat as the base. However, some people feel uneasy at the thought of munching on offal – don’t worry if this is you, as it is just as simple to buy another type of pâté instead.
Foie gras is a famous type of pâté that is made from the livers of fattened ducks, and has attracted a lot of criticism due to how the animals are force-fed to produce the desired meat.
It is even banned in some places, both because of this cruelty and because it can contribute to ill-health in humans.
Whichever kind you have, the pâté will be made from forcemeat. This is any ground meat (or fish) that is mixed with fat to form a uniform paste.
Forcemeats can be smooth or coarse, according to what the recipe requires, and there is evidence that they were used as long ago as Roman times.
Sometimes, you need to add a binder on top of the natural protein, to help hold the forcemeat together properly – this usually consists of egg or milk powder.
Pâté Around the World
Although it has a decidedly French name, pâté is found in many countries, and different places will make their pâté in different ways.
This means it is not that simple to answer the question ‘what is pâté made of?’, because it truly depends on the area you’re looking at.
The Polish equivalent is called pazstet, and can contain all sorts of meats such as fish, venison, poultry, and pork. Other common ingredients in pazstet are breadcrumbs and eggs; optional additions include tomato sauce, mushrooms, vegetables, cheese and spices.
Russians favor the liver approach in their pâté – beef, goose and chicken are the main options there. The meat is cooked and blended with fats and seasonings, and then either cooked again or eaten as is.
As well as the classic meatloaf presentation, Russian pâté comes in more adventurous molds such as animal shapes.
Can You Get Vegetarian Pâté?
As daft as this question may sound, it is actually possible to buy pâté that is suitable for vegetarians. Obviously this isn’t made out of meat; instead, vegetarian pâté has a base of cheese, nuts, or mushroom, and can be used in much the same way as the regular kind.
Although it does not taste quite the same, it has its own unique flavor and allows non-meat-eaters to enjoy a delicious entree along with everyone else.
Vegetarian pâté is not as widely available in stores as meat pâté, but there are plenty of recipes that teach you how to make it easily at home.
Is Pâté Good For You?
Due to how much fat is in it, traditional meat pâté is high in calories and isn’t great for your overall health.
Saturated fat and cholesterol, both of which are substantial in the paste, can put added strain on your heart and force it to work harder than it should just to keep pumping.
Pâté does have some health benefits, though: it is high in vitamin B12, and even one ounce of pâté will provide you the full recommended dose of this nutrient. Vitamin B12 helps produce blood cells in your body and maintain a good metabolism.
Of course, larger portions of pâté will contain higher amounts of saturated fat and other unhealthy components, so it is best not to get carried away with how much you serve yourself.
The good news is that pâté often has a quite intense flavor, so you probably won’t want to eat too much in one sitting anyway. When it comes to pâté, the phrase ‘less is more’ springs to mind.
Pâté is often made from chicken or pork liver, but it can also be made of different meats or even plant-based food products. Many cultures have their own version of pâté, and it varies in terms of ingredients, cooking process and end presentation.
Vegetarian pâté is a healthier option, as it often has significantly less saturated fat and more nutrients from the base vegetables.
If you’re worried about the effects of pâté on your body, all you need to do is limit your intake – you will still get to enjoy the rich taste if you use it sparingly!