Elk Liver Pâté
Courtesy of Chef John McGannon, wildeats.com
Pâté (pah-tey) is often misunderstood both in pronunciation and meaning. Picture it like sausage without having to go through all the stuffing. Before we had refrigerators and freezers, people used creative ways to preserve their food, from salting and drying to fancier delicacies like the French concoction, pâté. Traditionally, this blend of meat, herbs, spices and often alcohol such as brandy or sherry were cooked in terrines (earthenware cooking vessels) that had been lined with thin slabs of fat. As the terrine cooked, the fat would melt down and form a seal around the meat keeping it airtight. Without oxygen, the terrine could be stored in a cool cellar for extended periods of time.
Pâtés are a great way to use your random packages of all the tough cuts of meat, hearts and liver that are left after the backstraps, tenderloins, sirloins and top rounds are finished.
This is a very mild, aromatic recipe. The amount of elk (or venison) to pork is flexible.
John McGannon is a RMEF life member, host of wild game cooking seminars at Elk Camp and owner of WildEats Enterprises.
Elk Liver Pâté
1 lb elk liver, with outer membrane and heavy arteries removed and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 elk heart, trimmed and cut into cubes (approx. 1 lb)
2 lbs venison trimmed of silver skin, cubed
7 lbs pork shoulder, cubed
6 tbsp fresh minced garlic
1½ tsp ground allspice
4 oz dry Madeira wine
1½ cup minced shallots
5 oz (by volume) WildEats Juniperberry &
Peppercorn Rub (optional) Or 5 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp InstaCure #1 curing salt (optional, available online)
7 tbsp kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream
fresh sage/rosemary leaves if available
Trim and cube all the meat and place into a large container. Add the seasoning, wine and spices. Mix well, cover and place in refrigerator overnight. The next day, line three 5x9-inch bread pans or ceramic terrine pans with parchment paper. Process the meat mixture through a meat grinder using the ¼-inch plate, running it through twice. Add the eggs and cream to the meat and mix. Divide mixture evenly in pans. Lay the bay leaves, sage or other fresh herbs on top. Seal the top with the overhanging parchment and then seal with aluminum foil. Place the pans into a water bath and place in a 350-degree oven for roughly 2½ hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
Remove the terrines from the water bath and place them on a sheet pan to cool. To get a smooth silky texture, you will have to press the pâté as it cools with large cans or weights. Place 4x8-inch woods slabs with a weight on top to press.
Allow the pâté to cool on the counter, then place overnight in the fridge before serving. You can also freeze whatever you aren’t going to use right away.
Once the pâté is cold and ready to serve, take it from the pan, remove the parchment and clean the gelatin that forms on the outside. Cut the pâté into slices and serve with crusty bread, crackers, sliced red onions, Dijon mustard or, as the French like, with little sour pickles called “cornichons.”
Whatever you choose to call it, your guests will be asking for more!
John McGannon is chef/founder of Wildeats Enterprises, a life member of the RMEF, host of popular wild game cooking seminars at the foundation’s Elk Camp and a passionate hunter.