“It’s all sausage to me!” is probably better translated as, “It’s all the same to me!” This is pretty much how I feel about pâtés and terrines. After hours of research and study, I am still a bit confused as to the differences, but I am quite confident that they are delicious!
Is a terrine a type of pâté, or is it the other way around? Rillettes look a bit like a pâté, but they actually are something different. Are Galantines a fancy Turducken, or just a macabre form of sausage? Mousse, mousseline and quenelles are just more examples of the same things, only different. Like so much in the English language, you really have to dig to see and understand the relationships. It also helps to accept that most of the words in the English language aren’t English. Speaking as a person that is uneducated in the culinary arts, things don’t seem to be cleanly defined. Still, the more you look at it, the clearer it becomes.
All of these things I’ve mentioned are forcemeats. Take one or more meats, some fat and seasonings grind it all fine or coarse, and emulsify the meat and fat and you’ve just made a forcemeat. The question then becomes, “What forcemeat have you made?”
The definitions of pâté and terrine have evolved so much over time, that they seem nearly indistinguishable. Originally, a pâté was a forcemeat enclosed in a pastry shell, and then cooked. It could be served cold or warm, but rarely hot. A terrine is a forcemeat cooked in an earthenware vessel, oval or rectangular, with the forcemeat often wrapped in bacon or some type of fat. It is cooled and usually served in slices. Rillettes are sort of their own thing, which is comforting to me. Rillettes are made by cooking a meat, such as pork or duck, submerged in fat at low temperatures. This cooking style is referred to as confit. The cooked meat is then shredded and mixed with seasonings, flavorings (cognac) and fat, then potted and covered with some of the cooking fat to seal out air.
These days a pâté that is baked in a crust is called pâté en croute. A pâté that is cooked in a terrine vessel might be referred to as a pâté or a terrine, perhaps depending on the whim of the chef?
One of my family’s traditions is to serve small bites for New Years Eve instead of a dinner. There are always the standbys: Herbed Cheese Ball, Salsa Pinwheels, BBQ’d Democrats and Republicans (Meatballs and Mini-Wienies), Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts, and Hell’s Horsemen (Bacon Wrapped Dates stuffed with Wasabi Almonds).
This year I also made a Lamb and Smoked Chicken Terrine as well as Pheasant Rillettes. Terrine and rillettes served with crackers and crostini are part of a nice Charcuterie platter, along with pickled vegetables, mustard and some nice cheeses. If you scatter some candied walnuts and grapes on the platter, you really have an excellent snack.
It doesn’t matter so much what they are called anymore, what matters is that they are delicious. Pâtés and terrines are also fairly easy to make. After all, it’s all forcemeat to me!