Pate en Croute the Father of all Pates
Pâté en croûte, “pâté in crust”, is exactly what is sounds like: pâté encompassed in a layer of crusty dough. This dish was a staple of medieval cuisine in France; in fact, at the time, all pâté was encircled by a layer of crust for conservation and cooking purposes. Whereas the crust was never eaten and used strictly for functional purposes, the dish is now made with puff pastry or shortcrust pastry and is completely edible. Pâté is a mixture of organ meats and muscle meat grounded together and is often cooked in a terrine, a glazed terracotta cooking dish (which is why you may hear some pâtés referred to as terrine). Usually served cold, pâté is made with farm-raised animals like pig, duck, calves, or even rabbit. Pâté en croûte is thus roughly one half pâté and the other half includes ingredients like the croûte itself and gelatin. Why include gelatin? When cooked, pâté shrinks; gelatin is thus usually poured over the pâté to help it expand. The gelatin also helps keep the pâté moist and compact, preventing it from being too friable when eaten. I have often seen this dish served as an apéritif with baguette, pickles and chutney.