Until recently it was the province of the elderly and unfashionable, yet now, pâté-en-croûte (or pâté-croûte, depending on where you’re from) is enjoying a renaissance in France. The unlikely Instagram sensation has dusted off its reputation as the stodgy, flavourless foodstuff of yore and is being reclaimed by a younger generation with a fondness for old-school, rustic cuisine.
Chic charcuterie: why pâté-croûte is trending
In its new, rather more aesthetically-appealing form, pâté-en-croûte is, you might say, trending. In Lyon’s Halles Paul Bocuse, hundreds of kilograms are being sold each month, with tourists and visitors going out of their way to stock up on a dish they can’t buy at home.
Charcutiers say their customers are getting younger and they reckon its new-found popularity is down to 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.
Bernollin, who describes the pâté-croûte (as it’s called in Lyon and Reims) as the “quintessence of gluttony, gastronomy and culinary mastery of charcuterie and pastry making” says over-industrialisation is to blame for the demise of the dish in the 20th century, with mass-produced supermarket versions being a pale imitation of the original, with their thick, soggy crust and glob of foie gras in the middle.
Pâté-en-croûte (as it’s known in the rest of France) 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.
The version we know today comes from 17th-century Ain and Claudine-Aurore Récamier, the mother of famous gastronome Brillat-Savarin, who created a game pie.
Later lauded by the likes of Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, pâté-croûte fell out of fashion in the 20th century and remained neglected and ridiculed until the 2009 world championships shone a light on its manifold possibilities.
For those craving more, our sister site, France Today invites you to an exclusive online event. “Festive Entertaining: A Fabulous Charcuterie Board,” hosted by the charismatic Andrew Prior, promises a virtual journey into the heart of French charcuterie. Scheduled for Thursday, 7th December, from 11:00 to 12:00 GMT, this event offers France Today Members the opportunity to master the art of creating a charcuterie board that will be the pièce de résistance of holiday gatherings.
Whether you’re an experienced foodie or a kitchen novice, this event guarantees to elevate your holiday entertaining game. So, grab your favourite beverage and embark on a relaxed visit to chez Andrew!