I have not posted for a while, a combination of too much work and inertia but sitting by the fire on a bitterly cold winters day (it’s minus 10 C outside) I’ve run out of excuses. I have been planning posts for ages and this post goes back to a culinary sojourn back in the Autumn when I made a Fromage de tête, something I have been getting around to cooking for a long long time.
My mother was keen on English Brawn which is the UK version of Fromage de tête because it was tasty and cheap. Brawn sandwiches were always a treat for me though I only had the vaguest awareness of what Brawn was, in general my brothers and sisters thought Brawn was disgusting, which I didn’t mind as there was more for me.
Fast forward a bunch of years and I am sitting in a Parisian café eating Fromage de tête avec Cornichons and some rough red wine ( Fromage de tête is not a plat to drink with a decent red wine, it needs something a little paysan ) and I am falling in love with Brawn all over again.
Fromage de tête is eaten in some form all over the world in the UK it’s Brawn, in Germany it’s Sülze or in Russia it is Kholodetz, in Muslin countries the pigs head is substituted with a sheep’s head and flavoured with laurel, lemon and possibly chilli.
Yup the clue is in the above sentence Fromage de tête is mostly pigs head with a few feet and some aromatics, cooked and moulded into a sliceable form.
There are a million recipes for this particular treat so I will share with you the recipe that I used. I don’t claim to have any particular expertise or insight into the process. But the Fromage set and local people who know about these things ate it and were complimentary. Which I think in the real world means that my first attempt was OK.
Making Fromage de tête requires some faffing about but not much actual cooking. The cook’s first task is to get a pigs head and a couple of pigs or veal feet, in some countries such as the UK, popping in to your local supermarket is not going to work, this will need a chat with a friendly butcher. Once you have got your head and feet you need to singe or blow torch of any hairs and give everything a good soak in brine and a through scrub with a brush, piggy earwax is not yummy in any language!
To make Fromage de tête you will need;
- A pig’s head
- 2 pig’s or veal feet
- 3 onions (including one spiked with 3 cloves)
- 500 g of carrots
- 1 leek
- 1 bottle dry white wine
- A glass of Cognac
- few cornichons
- Salt and pepper
- 1 bouquet garni
- 7 or 8 Juniper berries
Put the scubbed pig’s head, feet into large pan with white the wine, and vegetables peeled but whole, the bouquet garni and the juniper berries. Cover with water and slowly bring to the boil skimming any scum the rises out of the cooking pot.
Simmer gently for an hour then, remove the vegetables and reserve the carrots. Continue simmering the meat until the flesh separates easily from bone (about 3 hours).
Remove the meat from the pan, allow to cool until comfortable to touch, then pull all the meat, tongue, ears etc. from the head and feet and chop coarsely and set to one side. Cut the carrots and cornichons into small pieces and add to meat to give colour to the pate.
Reduce the cooking liquid until it is about a litre. This is important because it turns the cooking liquid into a gelatinous stock which will set the pate.
Add the chopped meat to the reduced cooking liquid and cook at a simmer for about 10 minutes (this improves the keeping, because the meat was handled). Add a glass of Cognac and adjust the seasoning with the salt and pepper as necessary.
Place the meat and cooking liquid in to one or more containers to set, I used aluminium freezer containers, but you could use a classic pate bowl, what is important is to separate the mixture into portions that are convenient for you to use.
Cover and allow to cool.
That’s it, you should have a pate set in its own gelatine stock. The pate freezes well, so I froze a good part of the ones I made.
Enjoy anytime really, it goes well with good bread, pickles and a little salad.
As I wrote earlier mine was OK, the gelatine was a little cloudy because I let the mixture boil a bit too hard when cooking. But that’s the least of my problems, the hard part is convincing Julie that Fromage de tête really is great tasting food. She doesn’t look convinced!