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A Trio of Quick Hors d’Oeuvres

These spreads have all the deep flavor and richness of traditional pâtés with none of the hassle—and no pork fat

Fine Cooking Issue 42
Photos: Martha Holmberg & Steven Hunter
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I’m quite a fan of the unctuous texture and rich flavor of pork fat, but in all my years of cooking, I’ve rarely bothered to make traditional pâtés or terrines. Instead, I’ve devised a collection of less labor-intensive but equally compelling “charcuterie” recipes…spreads, really, that make fabulous hors d’oeuvres when paired with slices of crusty baguette or hearty crackers.

One of the three that I’m presenting here is fairly traditional, based on sautéed chicken livers and spiked with pancetta, Calvados, and fresh thyme. The other two use fish—smoked trout and fresh tuna—so they feel lighter, though butter and crème fraîche still play a big role. The trout gets a fresh lift from a handful of freshly chopped chives, and the tuna is paired with fragrant rosemary and lemon.

The methods couldn’t be simpler, though for the chicken liver and tuna spreads, you must be vigilant about not overcooking them. After cooking and cooling the ingredients, I toss everything into the food processor for a few seconds. The final textures of these two spreads should be, well, spreadable, though not satiny smooth. The texture of the trout spread is more “shreddy,” much like real rillettes (pronounced rih-YEHT), which are usually made from shredded confit of pork or goose.

While these spreads are extremely quick to make, you do need to allow some time for them to chill, which creates a better texture and lets flavors marry.

I usually pack the spreads into an attractive bowl or ramekin, put them on the table with croutons and crackers, and then let my guests help themselves. While it’s true that the following recipes won’t produce true pâtés or rillettes, I find that my guests (and I) are always happy to spread the product of my culinary license on a crouton and savor the difference.


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