We are excited to announce that Julie’s Rabbit Pâté was a winner in the ‘Charcuterie’ category at the 2012 Good Food Awards and was recently featured in a Bon Appétit magazine article entitled, “America’s Best Charcuterie.”
Choosing a favorite pâté is a little like selecting a favorite child. Each has its own attributes and unique characteristics that differentiate it from its siblings. That said, our house-made Rabbit Pâté would be a strong contender for the top of my “favorites” list. Wrapped in rose-hued Prosciutto di Parma and encased in amber-colored Madeira aspic, this pâté is our most intricate and, in my opinion, visually appealing.
One of my favorite things about cooking at Formaggio Kitchen is the wealth of wonderful ingredients at our fingertips. Working here as a chef is like being a kid in a lollipop factory. It is as much a treat to cook as it is to eat here, and often the ingredients that we get to use in our recipes add up to more than the sum of their parts. Such is the case of the Rabbit Pâté.
Most importantly, we start with great raw ingredients. We source our rabbits from a small family farm in Orwell, VT, aptly named Vermont Bunny Pen. Gene and Elizabeth Nantel raise rabbits and we buy about 50 from them throughout the year. Each rabbit weighs between 4-5 pounds when it arrives in our kitchen. They come to us headless, skinless, and cleaned (gutted) but otherwise intact. Nothing goes to waste and we use every bit at the charcuterie station. We begin by boning the rabbits, separating the loin and legs from the backbone. The bony forelegs are perfect for slowly stewing in fat and stock is excellent for making rabbit rillettes, while the leaner loin and meaty hind legs are simple to bone and grind for pâté. We make a light but flavorful stock from the bones and use the livers to flavor and bind the pâté. The soft white fat that wraps the rabbits’ kidneys and any additional fat is a welcome addition to either recipe.
Much of charcuterie-making involves ratios, and the meat ratio for our Rabbit Pâté is 50:25:25 (rabbit:pork:pork fat). Pork is the ingredient that gives most pâtés their signature richness. We source our pork from small family farms in Ashby, MA and in CT. The criteria we use for sourcing all the meat used in our house-made charcuterie is as follows: it must be excellent in quality and impeccably fresh, humanely-raised and, whenever possible, from small, local farms.
The rabbit meat, pork, and pork fat are ground in our kitchen and gently mixed together to form the base of the Rabbit Pâté. This is then combined with a liver-based binder and finally garnished with California pistachios. Our other pâtés would be ready to be baked in their terrines at this point, but there are three extra steps that separate our Rabbit Pâté from its cohorts. First, we line glass terrines with thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma, then we pack the seasoned forcemeat into the terrines and carefully wrap the prosciutto around it. After these pâtés bake and cool a bit, we place appropriately sized wooden blocks atop each terrine and weight them down while they chill overnight. The next day we transfer them to clean terrines, where they await their aspic bath. Madeira aspic complements the flavor of the pâté, in addition to creating a visual and textural contrast to the flavorful meat. Once the aspic has been garnished and has set, the pâtés rest for one more night before they are ready to be un-molded and join their siblings in the meat case.
Julie Biggs is charcutière and a frequent classroom instructor at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.