Think charcuterie . . . think pâté . . . but don’t think this has to mean fish or meat.

The traditional charcuterie definition, of course, has a focus on meat products, particularly cured varieties—and the art associated with charcuterie itself arose from the need to preserve meat without the use of modern refrigeration techniques.

Once refrigeration became available, it isn’t surprising that many chefs lost interest in this culinary application, because they now had plenty of new ways to experiment with meat dishes. As time has passed, though, the old has become new again, with ProgressiveGrocer.com noting how charcuterie is “having a renaissance as the kind of authentic, experiential meal that today’s consumers are yearning for.”

The article suggests that this trend is surging because of charcuterie’s:

  • artisanal qualities
  • vibrant amount of colors
  • versatility (when placing items on a charcuterie board)

Other reasons for this trend, the article says, include how it “creates a memorable and positive experience that can be shared with loved ones or on social media . . . Charcuterie, with its history and traditions, is seen as simple and ‘real food’ with an authentic story.”

Food-Management.com, meanwhile, says that charcuterie can “banish boredom,” and they predict that 2020 will see vegetable-based charcuterie boards.

Meat Required? Says Who?

At the Culinary Vegetable Institute, we agree that meat is optional in this culinary application. In fact, Chef Jamie Simpson created a vegetable forward pâté en croute dish at a recent event.

“Instead of using meat, fish, or game,” he said, “we selected turnips and treated this ingredient as if they were, for example, chicken liver. We seared them with aromatic onions, and used cognac, butter, and herbs—and then cast the result in a tart shell with parmesan cheese and black pepper. The aspic was made from roasted vegetable stock.”

So, you might wonder, how did this turn out?

“This created beautiful texture,” Jamie said, “that we hadn’t had before. You could spread it on crackers or otherwise use it as pâté. This was a simple item that turned out quite well and we had a good response.”

Elegant pâtés can be created using a variety of vegetables, not just turnips. “You can go plant-based,” Jamie says, “although not necessarily vegan. You can take a vegetable—say, leeks or beets—that braises well in butter, oil, or lard, and have a really great result. You could then put the pâté in the root cellar until you’re ready to use it. This is a fun world to explore.”

Elements of a Vegetable Pâté

It’s fun to experiment with time-tested culinary techniques, as Jamie points out, and it’s rewarding (and, sometimes, surprising!) when the end result is delicious and satisfying.

The Washington Post delved into what diners want from pâtés made from vegetables, and here is one thought they shared: “We expect it to be rich, the flavor deep. We don’t expect to eat very much of it, but we expect it to linger.” The best varieties, they add, take “philosophical cues” from the traditional versions, meaning “depths of flavor and luxuries of texture” without trying to precisely mimic them.

The article also contains quotes from Amanda Cohen, the owner and chef of Dirt Candy, an award-winning restaurant in New York City. (Here’s more about when Chef Amanda was at the CVI.) She says that you need the following for a successful vegetable pâté:

  • very strong flavor
  • intense depth of creaminess
  • very interesting taste sensation in a small bite

Develop Your New Dishes and Menus at the CVI

We invite chefs to contact us about using our 1,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art, two-story kitchen designed by Mark Stech-Novak to experiment with new menus. You can use our facilities and gardens and go on a farm tour that allows you and your restaurant team to immerse themselves in the innovative planting, growing, and harvesting methods that make The Chef’s Garden one of the most forward-thinking farms in the world.

You can then play in our kitchen, experiments, tasting, and cooking the ingredients you discover during your personal journey through the lush, sustainably farmed fields and greenhouses of The Chef’s Garden.

Sound intriguing? Contact us today!