Fitting into the Mold
Updated: Aug 14
The Vallee de la Gastronomie, which stretches from Dijon to Marseilles now belongs to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It’s all about the history, terroir, quality and flavor imparted in France. The French fiercely guard their traditions and identity. More or less don’t mess with their culinary heritage. There are 363 AOCs for wine and spirits and 101 French AOC registered food products, the highest percentage of which are cheese. France boasts close to 1,600 varieties of cheese, which is a whole lot of cheese, so not all have AOC certifications. If you are producing a sparkling wine product outside of the Champagne region, get ready to be called into court!
Over the years I have traveled the area north to south, east to west finding always special places, memories and especially flavors. At the crossroads is Lyon, known as the key destination of wine and food. I have my own notebook of my favorites, but each time discover others found in a hidden corner of this long valley. So many famous chefs have called it home and many others are lured here. From the king - Paul Bocuse, Olivier Canal, Mathieu Rostaing-Tayard, to our own Daniel Boulud.
I have always loved pate. I can actually remember a pate that I had nearly fifty years ago in Mexico, it was a smooth pork liver pate, though it certainly wasn’t my first; it set the bar for everything after that. I love rillettes, terrines, warm pate, cold liver parfait, and obviously, foie gras torchon. I even have Stephane Reynaud’s Pork & Sons cookbook. So, I was thrilled to be invited to participate in a Pate-en-Croute class from award winning Chef Joseph Viola. He holds the great honor of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France.
The unique global competition is designed to help preserve a centuries-old French culinary tradition. the Pâté-croûte World Championships, begun in 2009 by Lyon natives Arnaud Bernollin, Gilles Demange, Audrey Merle and Christophe Marguin. It started out as a friendly bit of rivalry between four new friends and has now become a global contest, with Japan taking the top spot in 2022 and this December 4 the 2023 competition will take place.
In Vieux Lyon’s district is Daniel & Denise, one of Chef Viola's three establishments, all awarded a Bib Gourmand by the Michelin Guide. Daniel et Denise Saint Jean is a bouchon very unassuming exterior, but the interior décor, woodwork, old paintings and zinc bar make this restaurant very warm and welcoming. Chef Joseph Viola after leaving his native Vosges, he bought this bouchon from Félix Guérin in 2012 after working for many a great name, including 10 years under the guidance of Jean-Paul Lacombe at Léon de Lyon. Whether at the restaurants Daniel & Denise Créqui, Saint Jean and Croix-Rousse or at the Daniel & Denise grocery store in Villeurbanne, Chef Joseph Viola's goal is always the same: to honor the flavors of the legendary dishes of French cuisine with finesse, elegance and generosity in a friendly atmosphere.
Pâté en croûte is a pâté that is baked in pastry. In Lyon’s Halles Paul Bocuse, hundreds of kilograms are sold each month, with both visitors and locals going out of their way to stock up on a dish they can’t buy or make at home. Why? Because it is a multi-day, complex dish that really cannot be industrialized. Any supermarket version is a pale imitation of the original, with their thick, soggy crust and glob of foie gras in the middle. It just can’t cut it, put your fork down. Pâté-en-croûte began as a starter in the 12th century and within 100 years had become as popular on the streets of Paris as in the finest aristocratic homes. Originally, the crust wasn’t meant to be eaten but was simply there to preserve the meat.
Luckily at my class, the pastry (Pate brisee) had been made the day before, the forcemeat was a mixture of course ground meat with mushrooms and our center was a lob of foie gras. The molds come in four puzzle pieces fitting together with side slides and clips, these cost up to 150$. Cutting the pastry perfectly to marry all the seams together is very difficult, you cannot have a leak or the whole thing is ruined. Some of my fellow students got very fancy with pastry leaves on top, I was happy that I could evenly crimp my top to seal my pastry. But it is the chimneys that are so important, they are metal tubes that are inserted carefully to allow the steam to escape so the pastry would not crack. Once baked and out of the oven – it rests as you make the gelee or aspic. As the cooking process shrinks the meat and thus there is an interior gap which must be filled. Without a firm aspic to fill the gap, the pâté would crumble as it is cut. Not after all that work! Pâté-en-croûte is a pain, it's a true challenge and done well, is a work of art. No wonder there is a medal and a global competition! My toque is off to Chef Joseph Viola!
Highly recommend dining on Pâté en croûte with duck foie gras and sweetbreads at Daniel & Denise the next time you are in Lyon. Bon Appetit