Just in Time for That Holiday Party: Violette Verdy's Pâté Recipe
Dance Magazine archives are a bonafide treasure trove of dance goodies. Earlier this year, I came across one of my all-time favorite articles from years past: A December 1960 story on Violette Verdy‘s pâté recipe.
This odd and lovely little article about Balanchine’s vivacious French muse was written by Radford Bascome. It was the first in a series titled “Cook of the Month.” (Yes, Dance Magazine has always loved sharing dancers’ recipes.) I adore just how indulgently French it is, and how this recipe shows that Verdy was utterly unafraid of things like “melting fat” and “splatter grease.” Here is the full text, with original photos.
Violette Verdy cooking pâté. PC Radford Bascome, DM Archives
It took the thrifty French people of Brittany to develop a pâté that could be used as a canape delicacy, or as a filling for the sandwiches for their workmen, or to feed their children as a late afternoon snack. The recipe, over 200 years old, has been brought to this country by Violette Verdy, soloist with New York City Ballet.
Violette and her mother have been living in America now for several years. Much of this time was spent in hotels, until they could locate an apartment in New York’s East Fifties. Now that they have found one and moved in, the first order of business has been to equip and start using their fine, modern kitchen. What better to start with than the old, family recipe for pâté, handed down to Violette through four generations, and originating in the Finistère Province of Brittany in the 18th Century.
The Verdy pâté, in loaf form, is made from veal that is coarsely ground. It is not like the pâté de fois gras that we might normally expect. It is sliced thin, and can be used as sandwich filling. The fat that collects around the edges is lightly spread on bread and fed to children in Brittany as a late afternoon snack. Violette’s grandmother used to take two lettuce leaves, dipped in wine vinegar, to eat the pâté while sipping a lightly fermented apple cider. It is usually served with French bread that has been sliced and allowed to dry out a little bit.
Violette Verdy’s pâté, a loaf of French bread, a mixed green salad and a bottle of chilled rosé will make a marvelous meal. Add a few lighted candles on the table, and you’ll be feeling the romance of 18th Century Brittany.
Verdy with her finished pâté. PC Radford Bascome, DM Archives.
- 2 lb. of veal, not too lean, ground very coarse. Use the back or scallopine.
- 2 lb. fresh pork fat from throat or ribs, also coarsely ground
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 clove fresh garlic, sliced very thin
- 1 heaping tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
- A small spray of parsley, a branch of thyme and a bay leaf, tied as a small bouquet
It is best to have the veal and the pork fat coarsely ground at the butcher shop, but not mixed together. Mix them at home in a large bowl, together with salt, pepper, chopped onion and garlic. Knead with both hands until meat is well mixed with fat and ceases to stick to hands and bowl. Place in bread loaf pan. Separate from pan sides with fingers to allow melting fat to collect along the sides of the pan. Place bouquet of herbs on one side along pan bottom. Cover with aluminum foil. Cook slowly in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove foil cover. All fat and juice must be around edges and top slightly golden color. Return to 450 degree oven, and cook uncovered for about 30 minutes. Place a cookie sheet or large piece of foil under the pan to catch splatter grease. When done, the pâté should be brown but not too dry, and a knife blade, when inserted, should come out clean.