Welcome to The Hot Dish, a behind the scenes look at the making of the dishes of the moment.
[All photographs by Nick Solares]
"My number one goal, even before I have picked up a knife, is to get the freshest liver possible," says chef Mathieu Palombino about making pâté de campagne. "I will only make pâté when I am assured a fresh liver — do you see the deep red color?" he asks, as he points admiringly to a plate of the organ meat, which is indeed a beautiful ruby red. "That's what I am looking for! It is also very important to never use frozen meat when making charcuterie," the chef explains. Palombino may have risen to prominence on the back of Motorino, his renowned Neapolitan style pizzeria, but he is French born and a classically trained chef. When he speaks of the French Charcuterie Code and of the purity of his aspic, there is palpable pride in his voice. He is currently offering a selection of classic French dishes at Chez Jef, his pop-up restaurant in space that formerly housed his now shuttered The Bowery Diner.
Pâté de campagne is traditionally made with a blend that contains 50 percent lean pork, 25 percent fat and 25 percent liver. Palombino makes a textbook version, down to the aspic stock using pigs trotters, ears, and bones which he cooks for 12 hours. Much of the intensive process is physically demanding work. The meat, liver, and fat need to be blended vigorously by hand and when it comes time to put it in the mold Palombino forcibly "slaps" it in to get rid of air bubbles. He wastes no opportunity to fold flavor into every aspect of the dish — he infuses the milk that is principally a binding agent with garlic, onion, basil, and thyme, he adds wine to the recipe because he wants there to be some "perfume" to the nose, and he adds ground pork to the aspic because the clarification process (using egg whites) tends to dilute the stocks flavor.
Watch Palombino makes pâté de campagne: