Pâté is a ground meat or fish mixture, similar to forcemeat and meatloaf.
It is highly flavoured, and often made in layers.
Mousse ones are made from liver or fish, and are very rich. They are often topped with a layer of aspic, which has a decorative function, plus a more important one of giving it a longer shelf life (until it’s cut into.)
Pâtés should be coarse or smooth, but not in between, which would be grainy. Some feel that make a pâté in a blender makes it grainy. Coarse pates are meant to crumble slightly when you slice them. Very coarse ones are called “country pâté.”
Many have a seal of clarified butter on top. This stops meat from turning an undesirable colour on the surface, and helps preserve the pâté overall for a short time.
Pâté is meant to be served cold or room temperature, but not warm or hot. It can be served as a starter or a light meal, or for picnics. It is served with crackers, toast or fresh bread to spread it on, and often with olives and cornichon pickles as well.
Pâté take a long time to make, but once they’re made, they end up as a “convenience” food. They are best made at least a day in advance, but brought to room temperature before serving.
Pâte means dough or pastry in French (whenever you see an “â” in French, if you replace it with “as”, you’ll come close to an English version that has a similar meaning.)
Pâté means something like “pastry-ed.” All pâtés used to be baked in a crust, and that used to be the distinction between pâtés and terrines. But now, whenever a pâté is baked in a crust, it’s referred to as “pâté en croûte” (“pâté in crust.”) All other pâté you could call, presumably, pâté en terrine.
Pâté was really a country person’s food. It only starting appearing in cookbooks in the second half of the 1800s.
The method of cooking helped to preserve it all for a few days, without refrigeration.