Written by Tom Brooks, Director of Food & Beverage at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa

Of all the classes I took during my years of training at Culinary Institute of America, charcuterie class was hands-down my favorite. I still remember walking in the first day and seeing a 30-gallon steam kettle filled with bobbing pigs’ heads. Our instructor (never one to underestimate shock value) thought he would jump right in and grab our attention from day one. Well, it worked. I’ll admit that the head cheese that we crafted that day was an acquired taste, but I’ve been hooked on all charcuterie ever since.

Along with the more exotic things like head cheese, terrines, and galantines, charcuterie also refers to food you probably eat on a semi-regular basis, including bacon, sausage, and even hot dogs.

I’ll assume you already know how to cook bacon, and I’ll spare you the thought of having to boil some pigs’ heads on your stove, so instead, here’s a relatively simple recipe (the toughest part will be finding all the ingredients) for a tarragon, chicken & pistachio pâté en croûte.

Tarragon, Chicken & Pistachio Pâté en Croûte
1 lb. ground chicken (dark meat)
½ lb. chicken tenderloin
1/4 lb. ground pork fat
1/2 lb. ground pork
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 bunch tarragon, chopped
1/4 lb. pistachios
1/2 tsp. salt
2 lb. bacon

Pâte Brisée
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
6 tbsp. cold butter
2 tbsp. cold vegetable shortening
1 egg yolk
¼ tsp. salt
3-4 tbsp. cold water

2 cups chicken broth
2 gelatin sheets

Mix ground dark meat chicken, pork fat, and pork together with chopped tarragon, pistachios, heavy cream, salt & pepper. Cool in refrigerator.

Making the pâte brisée – Use the well method to make the brisée. (Put the flour in a little mound in the middle of a cutting board. Make a divot in the center for the other ingredients. Slowly cut in butter, salt, egg, shortening, and water, and form into a ball. Frisée the dough with the palm of your hand to knead the ingredients together. Put in refrigerator for a half-hour. Then roll out dough large enough to line the pâte mold and to have a top cover. Lay the dough in a mold that has the little pin on the side for disassembly. (If you have trouble finding one, try Williams-Sonoma or any gourmet cooking shop).

Making the pâte en croûte – Line the mold cross-ways with the bacon, and place half the forced meat into the mold. Lay the chicken tenderloin on top of the meat and then place the other half of the meat on top of the tenderloins. Then fold the ends of the bacon strips over the top. Take the top portion of the brisée and place it on top of the pâte and pinch the edges together like with a pie. Apply an egg wash. Cut a little hole in the top of the brisée, and put a tin foil chimney in the hole. Bake for 60 minutes at 350 degrees until the pastry is very golden brown and the internal temp is 160 degrees. Take the pate out of the oven and let cool for about a half an hour. Heat the chicken broth in a shallow pan, remove from heat, and melt the gelatin sheets into it. Pour the mixture into the chimney and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, pull out the pin and carefully separate the mold not to pull away at the pastry. Slice and serve with a nice salad of mixed greens with herbs or some cheddar cheese and cranberry chutney.

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