Ocean City Today

Differences between pâtés, mousses, terrines explained

By Deborah Lee Walker

(July 31, 2015) Judgment of taste is a meticulous interpretation influenced by culture and personal perception. Sensory sensitivity is the basis for such acquisition and expression. But before conclusion can be considered, deconstruction on specifics must be reviewed.

Without further delay, let us delve into the differences between savory pâtés, mousses and terrines.

What exactly is a pâté? When you come across the word pâté, one automatically assumes that goose, or duck liver is the principle ingredient. Liver is certainly a prevalent choice but it is not the only form of protein. Pork, beef, chicken, seafood and sausages are other options. In fact, vegetarian pâtés are quite tasty and make a lovely presentation. In general, pâtés have a coarse texture and the overall appearance is intended to look rustic.

Mousse is a French term meaning “foam,” that is applied to dishes with a smooth, velvety texture that can be served cold or hot. Savory mousses are generally made of livers from goose, duck, or chicken, mixed with wine or spirits, spices and sometimes truffles. Mousses unlike country-style pâtés are very refined and elegant. Its creamy texture makes it easy to spread on toasted baguettes or crispy crackers. Great care is taken in the presentation and details are imperative for superlative results.

Terrine is a French term dating back to medieval times which denotes either a type of ovenproof dish with a close fitting lid or what is cooked in it. The preparations are numerous and quite varied. They are usually made with mixed meats, but can also be made with fish, seafood and vegetables. They are generally prepared with cooked, coarsely chopped ingredients set in aspic jelly. They are served cold and again the appearance must be impeccable.

Chicken liver mousse is classic and a wonderful addition to brunch, picnics and stylish celebrations. Cornichons and olives are tasty accompaniments that add to the overall taste and appearance of the dish. Wine or port are a perfect pairing and compliment the mousse to the highest degree.

Chicken liver mousse is not meant for everyone. But for those whose palette reflects a level of sophistication and at the same time embrace their humble beginnings - chicken liver mousse is a delectable starter.

* Note - Soak chicken livers in milk to remove any residual blood and chicken liver odor. Contrary to popular belief, soaking chicken livers in milk does not remove any toxins.

* Note - The cognac gelée is optional. This jelly-like topping is traditional and adds to the overall essence of the dish but again is optional.


Chicken Liver Mousse


2 cups chicken livers

1/4 cup chicken fat

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 large shallots, finely chopped

1/3 cup cognac plus 1 tablespoon

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon Herbs de Province

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup melted unsalted butter

1. Remove any unwanted spots or blemishes from the livers. Cut meat into half-inch pieces, place in a bowl and cover with milk. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Rinse livers in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

3. Melt chicken fat over medium heat in a medium sauté pan. Cook garlic and shallots in fat until they become translucent. Add chicken livers and continue to sauté until the livers have just stiffened but still pink inside. Strain liver mixture and place in a blender. Save the strained liquid.

4. Add cognac and strained liver liquid to the same pan and reduce by half. Add reduced cognac to the blender.

5. Add the cream, butter and seasonings to the blender. Puree at top speed until the liver is a smooth paste. Taste and readjust seasonings if necessary.

6. Place in a 20-ounce soufflé dish or attractive bowl and chill covered for at least 4 hours.


Julia Child’s Cognac Gelée


1/2 cup water

1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup dry vermouth

2 teaspoons cognac

1. Place 1/4 cup of warm water in a small bowl, sprinkle unflavored gelatin and let stand for 10 minutes.

2. In a small saucepan, heat vermouth and sugar over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.

3. Once the gelatin has softened, add the remaining 1/4 cup of hot water to the softened gelatin and blend until the mixture becomes clear. Add the gelatin mixture to the warm vermouth mixture and mix thoroughly.

4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add cognac. Let the warm mixture stand until it almost reaches room temperature.

5. Once it has cooled, pour over chilled mousse. Return the mouse to the refrigerator and chill until the gelée has set.

Secret Ingredient - Normalcy. “To be normal is the ideal aim of the unsuccessful.”       — Carl Gustav Jung