MOUSSES, PATES, TERRINES ET AL
Pate is a mixture of finely or coarsely ground meat, minced vegetables, herbs and spices laced with wine or cognac and baked until it becomes a spreadable paste. Pate may be served hot or cold, but it improves in taste and texture if chilled for a few days before serving. If baked as a loaf or pie in a decorative pastry crust, it is called pate en croute. If baked in a terrine or other mold it is called pate en terrine.
The word terrine comes from terra cotta, because the earthenware molds originally were made exclusively of unglazed clay. Today terrine molds may be made of glazed earthenware, enameled cast iron, ceramics, aluminum or stainless steel. Terrine molds measure the same in width as in depth, and their length is usually twice their width. Most come with a lid. Terrine also can refer to a more rustic but still pate-like mixture baked in the mold. Although the distinction between pates and terrines has blurred significantly over time, terrines traditionally are made with more coarsely chopped ingredients.
It has become fashionable in restaurants to serve pates and terrines sliced, presumably to control portions, but in France patrons are often offered a small terrine, a knife and some bread. Rillettes, another spreadable French meat concoction, are meats cooked gently in fat and then shredded with enough fat to form a soft paste. The name means “plank”, probably referring to how rillettes are served, sliced and spread on toast. Unlike pates and terrines, which are baked in their molds (often using a bain marie, or water bath, to assure slow, gentle heat), rillettes are packed into the mold cold. And, while pates and terrines may be constructed with layers of meat, vegetables or fish to create an attractive pattern when sliced, rillettes are homogenous.
In northern Europe (the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Denmark and Austria), liver pates may be shaped as soft, spreadable sausages (known as liverwurst or braunschweiger in the United States, where it is mainly used as a sandwich filler). The French also carried pates to Thailand, where they are called gan xay and are used on bahn mi baguette sandwiches.
Mousse is the French word for foam, and a mousse incorporates air bubbles to give it a light and silky texture. They may range from light and fluffy to creamy and thick, depending on preparation techniques. Unlike pates, rillettes and terrines, a mousse can be either sweet or savory.