pontoons and pâté

Annual traditions are something of a rarity for us.

Throughout our 20’s we were never in a single place or phase of life long enough to be able to institute them. We were always on the move, always worried about money, and always working toward degrees or careers.

All that changed when we moved to Colorado and stuck our feet firmly in the ground, built a strong sense of community around us, and found ourselves pursuing so much fun that we found ourselves repeating each activity year after year. Elizabash is perhaps the one exception to this rule, but ice fishing and my girls trips [described here and here] all fall into the new-since-Colorado pursuits. As does this past weekend’s shenanigans at Lake Granby — one of our favorite weekends of the year for both the setting and the people.

lake granby2

Lake Granby Weekend began with bunch of Texan Colorado transplants looking desperately for water anywhere they could find it. So they set up their tents along the shores of Lake Granby, rented a pontoon boat for the day, and got their “water” fix for the year alongside some of the best people in the state [who all also happen to be Trinity grads].

Four years or so later, and the recipe is roughly the same. Setting up camp at the water’s edge, laughter by the campfire, swigs of whiskey “around the horn”, dogs swimming in the lake, late nights playing games in the tent, music booming from the pontoon, voyages to our favorite hidden beach, pilgrimages to Mackinaw’s for greasy food and “nudie hunts”, and an annual gamble with the weather: will it rain? will we get to swim? will we be wearing our down coats? [In Colorado, you never know!]


lake granby6 lake granby9

This year was no different, and somehow proved to be hands down one of the best yet. Despite having to dodge a few storms and don our winter garb for a bit, we were blessed with unbelievable sunsets, a stunning rainbow stemming from the water, and perfectly clear views of the Milky Way and the sky’s many shooting stars at night, as well as a healthy amount of laugh-until-it-hurts moments from start to finish.

lake granby7 lake granby3 lake granby8 lake granby

Then there was the food! Lauren made her famous and addictive Mexican Brownies, Kate and Tyler took lead on cooking as-Texas-as-you-can-get chorizo breakfast tacos Saturday morning, Aubrie went classy with some shrimp cocktail, and we… well, we went a little overboard with vegan Chex Mix [aka “Texas Trash”] for Jason, faux Lofthouse cookies [NOT vegan] for the group, and pâté. Yes, pâté.

chex mix lofthouse cookies

You see, last year marked our first official invite to Lake Granby Weekend and we outdid ourselves with smoked salmon dip [straight from our travels in Alaska] and lots of homebrew, in the hopes of securing our spot the following year. So once we received the re-invite, we knew we had to re-bring our A game.

Enter: Pâté. Or as Jason sometimes calls it, “Fancy French Meat Loaf.”

But comparing pâté to meatloaf is like saying granite and sandstone are similar because they’re rocks. If you talk to any geologist [or chef, in the pâté vs. meat loaf case], they’ll look at you like you’re kind of crazy, acknowledge that you’re technically correct, and then either go on a long tirade about the differences or just dismiss you completely. [So says Jason.]
So what actually is a pâté? Simply put, it’s ground meat with spices and aromatics cooked/preserved in a serious amount of fat and baked in a dish called a terrine. There’s the luxurious pâté de foie gras most know, all the way down to peasantry pâté de campagne [country pâté] made from fatty pork or chicken cuts, which we decided to make for the occasion.
For us, pâté is what’s right about French food, specifically the pâté de campagne itself. It’s cheap cuts of meat cooked to their full potential. It’s a dish that ends up being so rich that you CAN’T overindulge on three massively-American sized portions of it as you might with meatloaf. Served with a dash of mustard to help cut the richness, a small cornichon [sweet gherkin] to round out the flavor, all on a slice of baguette, it can be described as nothing short of freakishly good. Needless to say, if given the choice between a thin slice or two of pâté versus a hefty slice of meat loaf smothered in gravy or ketchup, we will choose pâté 10 times out of 10.
So here’s our take on the pâté de campagne — it might be the last thing you’d expect to see on a camping trip, but trust us, it didn’t disappoint.

Pâté de Campagne
This recipe is based on a recipe from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polycyn. The nominal recipe is below, and the variations we used are in brackets.
Before getting to the recipe, however, there are a couple of things you will should know ahead of time to help the process:
  • If you can grind your own meat and spices, bravo to you. Even if you can’t [we didn’t], never fear, as it will still be very good.
  • All of your mixing needs to be done with incredibly cold ingredients and utensils. We stuck the ground pork and chicken livers in the freezer for an hour and a half and the mixing bowl and paddle in 20 minutes prior to use. If you’re grinding your own meat, you want it to be halfway frozen: crunchy is OK, frozen solid is not. If there’s a step where you need to take a 10-15 minute break before anything goes into the oven, toss everything back in the freezer. Sausage makers will understand.
  • Spicing is a bit different here. Since pâté is served cold, you want to add more salt and spice than you would normally add to a dish you serve hot. So when you’re tasting it before you bake it, it should taste almost too salty and almost too spiced.
  • Don’t have a terrine pan? No problem. If you’re anything like us, you probably don’t have a terrine [pan]. We used a rectangular glass bread loaf pan. After you bake it, just press it down with 2 to 3 pounds of weight. The terrines come with something that weighs about this much, but we jut cut a piece of cardboard to the shape of the pan and put a sack of rice on top of it.
  • Internal temperature is very, very important. You want this thing to be only as cooked as you need it to be for texture purposes. An instant read thermometer is highly recommended.
  • Lastly, you can get really fancy and “stuff” your pâté with things like broiled tenderloin, sautéed mushrooms, spinach, cheese, etc., but we would recommend giving the “simple” version the first go so you can experience the base dish [kind of like ordering a margherita pizza at the new fancy pizza place, to get a feel for what the dish is like].
  • 2 lbs. ground pork [if you’re grinding your own meat, use boneless pork shoulder butt, diced]
  • 4 oz. pork or chicken liver [we used chicken], chopped
  • ¼ c. onion, chopped
  • 8 Tbs. chopped herbs [we used sage, but parsley also works]
  • 1-½ Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 oz. or 2 Tbs. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. each of the following ground spices: cloves, nutmeg, cinger, coriander, and cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs. AP flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbs. brandy or cognac [we used cognac]
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  1. Freeze all of your blades and bowls [see notes above] and preheat the oven to 300°.
  2. Place one-third of the ground pork in a small bowl and add chopped liver, onion, herbs, garlic, and spices. Combine thoroughly.
  3. Place remaining pork in a large standing mixture bowl and add the pork-seasonings mixture into the bowl, combining thoroughly. Refrigerate.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the flour, eggs, cognac, and cream and stir to blend to make your panade. Add the panade to the ground meat and, using the paddle attachment or a wooden spoon, mix until the panade is incorporated [about 1 minute]. The mixture should be sticky.
  5. Check the seasoning by poaching a small, lemon drop sized amount of the mixture in plastic wrap in 170° F water. Again, it should taste almost too salty and almost too spiced.
  6. Line a terrine mold or bread loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving enough overhang to fold over the top when it’s filled. Fill with the pâté mixture, packing it down thoroughly to remove air pockets. Fold the plastic wrap over the top and cover with a lid or foil. [Note: the plastic wrap is crucial, as it keeps all the fat and juices in the meat after it’s cooked and slowly cools it back in so that the final product is soft and fluffy.]pate 1
  7. Place the terrine/pan in a roasting pan and add enough hot tap water to reach half way up the side of the loaf pan. Place in the oven and bake until the interior of the pâté reaches 150° F if using pork and pork liver or 160° F if using chicken liver. [Note: the low temperature and water bath ensure that there’s an overall slow rise in temperature to unlock the full flavor and texture of the meats.]
  8. Remove from oven and remove the mold from the water bath. Set a 2 lb. weight on top of the terrine [again, we jut cut a piece of cardboard to the shape of the pan and put a sack of rice on top of it. Ingenuity!]. Let cool to room temperature then refrigerate until completely chilled, overnight, or for up to one week, before slicing and serving.

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