Easter or spring brunch: a twist, a notch up, Cécile’s way
Recently I was talking with a friend of mine who was wondering what to offer for an elegant shower brunch. She was thinking quiches and salads; Yes, of course, this is a nice way of seeing things…but she could also twist it a little and make it more original and elegant with a pâté!
Not any pâté : a crust pâté, what we call in France a Pâté en Croûte. Of course a pâté en croute can be very fancy and quite complicated to make. But you’ll see here that it can be quite easy if you don’t use a mold and make it “free style”;
To make this pâté, we need to use one of my favorite dough: puff pastry. Yes, I know, puff pastry can be tricky to prepare. This is why we’ll choose a rough puff pastry, something the Brits use a lot for their incredible pies. Rough puff pastry is much easier to achieve and you’ll see that even a geeky teenager can do it (it was my son’s first attempt and he did a great job!).
When you make puff pastry, you want to make a lot of it and get advantage of it to prepare other beautiful things: here went for a Tarte Tatin, my son’s favorite tart (it was a bribe) as it is a beautiful bistro dessert that can be made when spring fruits are not yet available. Refrain from using out of the season under ripe berries: choosing apple is wiser, especially when pairing it with caramel and a very good puff pastry…it will work so well on your spring brunch table with a jar of whipped cream (George Cox on the set couldn’t resist…)
The basic ingredients are unbleached wheat flour, but I already did it with sprouted and regular spelt flour and it worked great.
You may add ground sesame and flax seeds to your chosen flour to add nutrient quality.
The other big ingredient is butter (French cuisine…remember?), but a good one: the best would be a cultured unsalted butter, or if you like salted (and then reduce the salt in the dough) chose a Breton butter with sea salt.
Easter asks for eggs. We place hard boiled eggs in the paté. Use the eggs you like (quail, duck, hen) as long as there are organic or at least free range (which doesn’t mean much anymore but it is better than Cafo eggs)
Here I used pork tenderloin and lamb, but it could be veal and pork, or just lamb, or perhaps chicken and duck, rabbit! Try it!
You could perfectly make this recipe with veggies only!
I made one with mushrooms and garlic, but you could use anything as long as this is sautéed before in order to remove some of the moisture. The danger in baking crusty things is to get it soggy instead. So, reduce the odds, slightly cook your veggies.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to slice your chef d’oeuvre, so be careful when using stringy items such as asparagus and leeks.
Also, feel free to add nice flavors to your veggies with fresh herbs, and a few drops of essential oils…
To give you some ideas: sautéed assorted mushrooms, spinach, kale, onions, leeks, endive, fennel, turnip greens etc…
Always pair your pâté with a nice salad. Not a pasta or potato salad (too stuffy) but a very fresh colorful salad: romaine, mesclun, herbs, grated carrots, endive, red cabbage, raw beets, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts, seeds
Added flavor boosts: Essential oils are very useful to add a flavor boost here. Its is very useful in your vinaigrette! You need an oily base to add essential oils, so here you are! Chose well you oils (avocado, olive, walnut etc…) and add a drop of lemon essential oil to it. You’ll have the fresh taste and a concentrated miracle for your digestive system.
Fist, marinate your meat:
I had lamb, so I kept it simple, with olive oil, thyme, laurel, garlic, salt and pepper.
If I had only white meats, I would have used white wine with my spices.
A fun thing to do is to make it Indian like with a nice curcuma powder (or essential oil), chilies and a bunch of cilantro.
You place everything in a large bag (Ziploc like) and in the fridge for the night.
In the meantime, make your dough.
Here I used 4 cups of flour
1 tsp grey salt
3 sticks of cold butter
About 18 tbs of cold water
You may make more and keep the extra dough in the freezer.
- Sift together flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the sliced butter and cut it in the flour, or grate in on a large cheese grater. Avoid touching the butter with you fingers as they would make it soften.
- Drizzle tablespoons of cold water evenly over flour mixture and gently stir with a fork until incorporated.
- Add enough water to bring all the flour into a ball.
- Test mixture by gently squeezing a small handful: When it has the proper texture, it will hold together without crumbling apart. If necessary, add another tablespoon water, stirring until just incorporated.
- Gather mixture together and form into a 5-inch square, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 30 minutes.
- Roll out dough on a floured surface in a long strip, in front of you, then fold it into thirds like a letter. Rewrap dough and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
- Repeat rolling out, folding, and chilling 2 more times. Brush off any excess flour, then wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.
Comment: on the set, I didn’t use as much chilling time and it still worked…but remember: chilling is the safe side. Until you get used to it, chill, chill…
Regarding the amount of meat and the final size of it, it is really up to your needs…but try to make two or three medium size pieces instead of a very large one. It will be easier to handle.
For the one we made we had about two pounds of meat total. Simply make sure you have enough dough to easily shape it.
Do not forget your hardboiled eggs to place in the center of the feeling!
You may also add a layer of vegetable of your choice before you close it.
Important: run your finger with water all around the edges of you dough
before you close your pâté! Press it well, and then, brush it with a beaten egg.
Also remember to open a little chimney on the top part to help the steam escape. It gives you also the opportunity to pour a nice aromatic jelly in the pate and to serve it cold. The jelly sets in it and produces beautiful slices.
For the jelly, an easy recipe is to use a homemade chicken stock in which you dissolve some gelatin and add a good drop of madeira wine.
Cooking time: You need to wait for a nice color and a crisp bottom. So, no hurry…A good hour in the oven, at about 400 degrees. You may lower the temperature at the end to deepen the cooking 10 more minutes.
Without any jelly, this pâté serves hot…But it is also very good cold. Try it…
The tarte Tatin.
You need green apples for their tartness and texture. Each time I tried with other apples, it didn’t produce the same effect.
You’ll need a good cup of sugar for the caramel: I never use white sugar…but if making caramel with a raw sugar is too complicated for you, choose the simple way with white sugar.
The easy way is to melt your sugar directly in your baking dish.
Add the apples on it: you may choose anyways to cut and place your apples. The traditional way is to use large quarters of apples, their backs in the caramel.
Sprinkle with cinnamon, add dots of butter, cover with a disc of dough and place in the oven for a good hour.
Unmold the tart when it is hot! You don’t want the caramel to glue your tart to the pan!