Poultry pâté pantin,
special District of Columbia heraldry edition.
A pox upon sweltering, balmy, mid Atlantic summers; their oppressive humidity, hokey halter tops, air conditioned sequestering and general lethargy. Cold meat beats the heat. Septimal (depending on who is keeping score) noble attempt at aligning the confluence of theory and practice required to fabricate a worthwhile pâté pantin –the freeform version of the venerable pâté en croûte. When cruel life bequeaths a freezer of meat scraps, make whimsical meat pies. Mid-summer flavors of Cornish game hen, dried apricots, fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, rosemary) from the Mt. Pleasant sharecropping herb garden and the ubiquitous supplements of pork shoulder, pork liver, fatback, peanut M&M’s, black peppercorns, crushed urinal mints, Spanish peanut skins and such.
The decorative decision process was tedious, cloudy and more of a nuisance than anything else until a topical nod to Charles A R Dunn’s iconic flag (widely applauded by the North American Vexillogical Association), this adoptive city and George Washington heraldry fit the mid-year bill. Naturally, the stars would be fluted, bars ribboned, pastry laurel leaves adorned and an associating feather on the backside to evoke the ticklish nature of a feathered farce within. (insert applause)
Standard forcemeat procedure was followed: Cornish hen meat (breasts & legs), pig liver and pork shoulder was cleaned, cubed and marinated in brandy with the addition of herbs, peppercorns, garlic, olive oil, token carrot and a piece of onion or two for 4 days. The liver was puréed with 1/3 (equal weight) of the marinated meat and an egg. Another 1/3 was ground and the remaining meat consisted of diced breast, pork and fatback. #1 curing measurements were made, the seasoning calculated based on the total weight of the forcemeat with the inclusion of the diced dried apricots and crushed pistachios.
Less than half the dough was rolled out with an empty Bordeaux bottle (1984 Lynch Bages –that’s how I roll) for the base. The remaining was rolled out in the same manner, though larger by a few centimeters to cover the forcemeat which was placed on the base and shaped with a spatula. Stars were cut from the top portion, the base border brushed with egg wash, then the top was placed over the forcemeat and the seams sealed…twice because the dough in the first covering was too dry and fell apart. The base form was covered with a towel whilst the chimneys and decorative pastry was painstakingly carved and applied. A pain in the ass like no other. Flat, 2 dimensional bars would have been far too prosaic for an homage to the American capital. Draping, sort of colonial ribbons were fashioned instead and empty space filled with the hallmark feather and laurel leaves for classical showmanship.
Half a dozen egg washes and a proper chill later, the thing was tucked into a 450F oven for 20 minutes, the temperature reduced to 400, the beast rotated and baked another 20 minutes until the internal temperature was somewhere near 140F. It was left to cool on its own and after a day in the fridge the aspic was poured in through the chimneys. Apparently cracks had formed in the pastry since aspic was clearly, frustratingly leaking through. As a measure of relief, the pretentious meatloaf was crushed from a distance.
In an attempt to transfer the fragile oeuvre to a dry platter the cracks worsened. Crap. Soft butter was generously applied to the cracks with the deft of a Portuguese mason. The red wine aspic was fortified with some stronger neutral aspic and it literally sealed the deal. A torch melted away the excessive butter spackle and some of the shame. In nervous haste, sweating like a sharlila at the temple mount, pictures of the cooked forcemeat were not taken.
Shitté pâté? Almost. Certainly not an historical high water mark or a colossal tapestry of shortcomings and oversights as acknowledged in the disastrous pâté pantin beta version. Merely a few technical hiccups. In lieu of the cost disparity between butter and lard (as well as UNPO Cup gambling indiscretions –damn you Chechnya, and funds pending between Lagos and here) the thrifty later was increased to represent the dear formers proportions. However, the varying water content was not properly accounted for and the dough was a just a bit drier than it should have been. Some additional water and well seasoned expletives remedied the tough dough and tense situation. Secondly, the pastry was rolled to thin and the pâté itself too broad in width making the cooked product (after shrinking) very fragile. Again, the ef’in aspic was too thin. Made exclusively from pig trotters and skin, it should have been cooked longer and reduce further before clarifying to ensure proper solidity. Notes have been taken and such errors will not be repeated, intentionally, though others might.