Lifting the lid on pâté en croûte13-03-2018
Brought up to date, the pie finds its place in our plates. But what is the true story of the pie? Discover its origins and the reasons for its success.
Pie in the sky?
“Pâté en croûte”, literally “pâté in a pastry crust”, is a cooked meat preparation wholly encased in short crust or puff pastry, and known commonly as “pie” among friends. It has been a popular dish in France for centuries, enjoyed as a starter or appetiser, and commands a reputation of being mercilessly difficult to create, contrary to the “easy as pie” idiom. To officially warrant its name, the pâté must contain 50% meat. There are many variations, often depending on the region. Pork is the most common filling, along with rabbit or poultry, sometimes combined with a stuffing or farce, of which mushrooms, olives or even pistachios are among the most well-known. Fillings can also me marinated in marc de Champagne for a delicious, gourmet touch.
We would have to go way back through time to see the first mention of pâté en croûte. Since ancient times, it has been widely accepted that the pastry crust was a preparation method to keep the meat longer. BTW, fridges did not exist at the time. During the French Renaissance, Francois 1st gave his royal seal of approval and Louis XIV, who was rather partial to pâté en croûte in the Royal Court, further boosted its popularity. Initially the preserve of the upper echelons of Versailles, it did not take long for the dish to make an appearance further afield, giving rise to many regional variations.
Lyon, capital of the pâté-croûte
Often wrongly mistaken as the birthplace of this delicacy, Lyon is now the pâté en croûte capital and is not shy to promote the fact. And while overlooked by many for a considerable time, the specialist shop windows of Lyon, known for their strong charcuterie tradition, have never forgotten its cause. Here the pâté en croûte takes pride of place alongside other regional specialities, including saucissons, rosette, andouillettes, terrines, boned ham and quenelles.
The world pâté en croûte championships
Ⓒ Fabrice Schiff
Not far from Lyon, Tain l’Hermitage in the Drome, hosts the annual competition to crown the world’s most talented and passionate pie specialists. The brainchild of four friends with more than a penchant for the dish, who decided to create the competition having eaten a plethora of pies in restaurants in the quest to find the very best.
And so in 2009, a panel of experts named the world’s finest pâté en croûte. As testament to the international appeal of the contest, competitors from New York, Macao and Tokyo featured srongly in the line up. And it was in fact the Japanese entry, Chikara Yoshitami, chef at 3-starred restaurant L’Ambroisie in Paris, who scooped the prize in 2017, with his take on gamekeeper’s pie: mallard duck with juniper.