by Melissa Kravitz for USA TODAY 10Best

Pâté 101: What you need to know about this rich meat treat

Foie gras en croute? Pig liver? To non-French eaters curious about pâte, the options can sound overwhelming and, frankly, unappealing. Americans aren't necessarily used to eating offal – the organs and typically unused parts of pigs and poultry.

If you needed a reason, eating animals tail to tongue is yet another way to be more sustainable and conscientious about our meat consumption, so get ready to dig into pâté.

To start, what is that brown mush exactly?

"Pâté is a fancy meatloaf served cold," explains Ariane Daguin, CEO, Owner & Co-Founder of D’Artagnan, which purveys gourmet and organic meats.

Traditionally made with liver, and mixed with wine and spices until it’s cooked down into a spreadable texture, pâté can also be created with liver or other parts of pork, venison, chicken, fish, duck and other game, and even created with veggies on occasion.

What’s in a name?

Usually made in a terrine (a porcelain dish), pâté may also be referred to as terrine, used as an abbreviation of pâté en terrine. Though some consider terrine to imply a coarser, heartier pâté, the two terms are used interchangeably today.

Is foie gras pâté?

There is one notable exception in the naming of pâtés: When pâté is made entirely with foie gras, it shouldn’t be called pate, but "terrine of foie gras," says Daguin.

Pâté 101

For beginners, Daguin recommends pâté de campagne. This country-style pâté is traditionally made with coarse ground pork meat and pork liver with garlic, parsley and sometimes onion, rosemary and clove, making it a savory and easy intro.

Don’t spoon it up all at once. "Take a slab and put it on an open face slice of peasant bread," Daguin suggests. "You can spread some Dijon mustard or slightly spicy chutney on the bread, or top it with a baby pickle (a cornichon)."

If you’re into smooth and creamy dishes, consider ordering a mousse, which is traditionally made with duck or poultry liver, as well as liqueurs and spices, and whipped into a light paste to be spread on baguettes or eaten with a small spoon.

Ready to upgrade? Those into rich foods (think fatty cuts of meat or silky milk chocolate) should enjoy a terrine of foie gras, which is "very rich and has a very complex and silky taste," Daugin says.

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