Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pates and Terrines. An introduction to the meat, fish, vegetable and fruit pates on French menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman

The words pâté, pate, and terrine are used interchangeably on French menus. 
 English translations of French menus will correctly use both pâté and terrine as pate.

The English word terrine, meaning a cooking or serving dish was taken from the original French at a time when a terrine did not also mean the pate inside a terrine.
Meat and liver pates on sale in a French charcuterie-traiteur[i],
a French delicatessen
Photograph courtesy of cbertel.

 Pâtés and/or terrines on French menus are not always ground liver, meat or fish served as a spreadable paste. A pâté may be spreadable, but chefs may include pieces of meat for contrasts in taste and texture. When fruit and vegetable pâtés and/or terrines are on the menu, the method of preparation and serving may be very different.
A summer fruit terrine.
Photograph courtesy of Katy Wrathall.
Pâté with those accents over the â and é for a French diner can only mean pate. The  French word pâte with a single accent over the â has different meanings and may cause some possibly tasty confusion if you do not look out for it.

There is a short explanation of the meanings behind the single accented pâte, as it may appear on a French menu, at the end of this post.

The word terrine began, in France, as the dish in which pâté and many other dishes were and still are made in and/or served in a terrine.  Over time, on French menus,  the two words were accepted as interchangeable when used for pate. Like the varied usage of the word terrine, many other cooking utensils in France have given or received their names from the dish in which they were prepared. 



Terrines as cooking utensils. 

Here are some examples of pates that may be on your menu:

Pâté Chaud – A liver and or meat pate; served hot. All kinds of liver pates may be on UK and North American menus, and the amount of liver and the percentage of liver content is not controlled by law or usually disclosed.

Pâté de Campagne- A country style pate; country styles pates are usually not finely ground and traditionally include both pork meat and pork liver. If the pâté is not pork, the menu will say so.

Pate de Campagne.
Photograph courtesy of   michelle@TNS
Pâté de Foie Gras – A pate, usually spreadable, made from the fattened liver of ducks or geese.  In France foie gras is a very important part of French cuisine, it is part of the French psyche.  The minimum amounts of duck or goose liver in any dish that includes foie gras are governed by French government regulations.  By law, a pate de foie gras must contain at least 50%  duck or goose liver; however,  if the menu notes a parfait of fois gras then that parfait,  will be a very rich pate. A parfait must contain at least 75% of the fattened liver. The missing percentages usually include pork and or chicken liver. When pâté de foie gras is on your menu, and it does not explicitly note that the liver is goose liver, oie, then it will be the less expensive duck liver that is being used.

Pâté de Gibiers - Game pate.  The game pate on this menu listing comes from farmed animals.  If was part of a hunting season menu, it would be part of a menu called a menu de la chasse. Or, on a regular menu called a pâté de gibiers sauvage, a wild game pate.     See the posts on: pheasant,[ii] chamois.[iii] Wild boar,[iv] Rabbit, [v] Quail,[vi]  their links are at the end of this post. Game animals may be legally hunted in France, each in its distinct season.


Venison and rabbit terrine.
Photograph courtesy of   Renée Suen 孫詩敏.  


Pâté en Croûte – Pate cooked, and initially served, inside a pastry covering or bread covering. French cuisine moves on, and now chefs create coatings with vegetables, herbs, fruit and leaves. If the croûte, the coating, is not pastry or bread the menu will say so.
Pâté en Croûte
Photograph courtesy of don.reid

Pâté Lorraine - A traditional pork pate from the region of Lorraine in Northern France. 

Pâté Maison – The chef’s own pate; usually a mixed chicken liver and pork liver pate. Ask.

Pâté Forestière – A liver and meat pâté with mushrooms.

Terrine de Foie de Volaille. A chicken liver pate.

Terrine du Pêcheur – A fisherman’s pate, a fish pate.  Ask which fish is being served and how it is prepared.

Pâte, with the single accent over the â
is not pate in English.

The word pâte, with that single accent over the a, in French cuisine has at least four different meanings, and none of them mean pate in English.

The most well-known meaning of pâte indicates a pastry dough or batter. There are many different types of pastry dough, and their names all begin with the single accented pâte.

Pâte Levée Feuilletée  or Pâte à Croissants
The dough used for croissants.

Pâtes on your menu may also mean pasta, the pasta that we call spaghetti, linguine,
vermicelli, etc.  All Italian and French versions of pasta will be on the menu under the menu heading of pâtes.

Fresh homemade pates, fettuccini.
Photograph courtesy of ParaScubaSailor.
Pâtes in a fromagerie, a cheese shop, or on the cheese trolley have other meanings. A pâte persillé is a blue-veined cheese.  N.B. Persillé, in French cuisine also has other meanings and persil means parsley, the herb.

Roquefort cheese,  a pate persille.
Photograph courtesy of  Furey and the Feast.
Pâte de fruits are densely made crystallized fruits, the more well know crystallized fruits are called fruits confits.

 Pâte de fruits.
Photograph courtesy of ulterior epicure.
One or more of the names above will be on nearly every French menu.

My own problems with French accents, especially in French cuisine.

When I began to keep notes on my own breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks in France I did so along with the discussions about the dishes served; however I ignored  the French accents  The notes were intended for my own use, a crutch for my poor French and a  bad memory for names and those were the days before Google.  Later, when someone suggested I print out my notes I discovered that I had enough information for a book or two and lots of posts for a blog on French cuisine.   For the (still unpublished) book and this blog, I have had to put the accents in. I have checked them inside and outside of dictionaries; despite my hard work in checking French accents, I may still have some errors left and for those, I apologize.

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