Cooking with Spirits-Steve Ludwig
Photography Hillary Maybery
Steve & Becky Ludwig
In Steve and Becky Ludwig’s kitchen, food means celebration. Whether the occasion is as casual as a glorious afternoon filled with sunshine or as painstakingly planned as a wedding feast, their artisanal approach is serious, almost too intellectual for the purely decadent pleasure of eating exquisite food. It was their keen eye for detail and relentless pursuit of perfection that built the stellar reputation of their restaurant, Place.
Best known locally for their years at Place and the Ketchum Grill, the two have an impressive list of culinary accomplishments: graduations from Johnson and Wales, and from Cornell’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management; tutelage under the renowned Charlie Trotter; and immeasurable experience in the kitchens of San Francisco’s Haw-thorne Lane, Bradley Ogden’s Lark Creek Inn, Mark Franz’s Farallon, and Nancy Oakes’s Boulevard.
But, for Steve and Becky, the Wood River Valley is where their love of fine cooking meets their other dreams. Like many people, they’ve chosen their own method of balancing professional life with family life—and, sadly for the fans of Place, this meant the recent closing of a wonderful local favorite, “at least for now.” Steve and Becky welcomed their first baby in September, and are now celebrating new life and the changes it brings.
“We cooked every single night at Place for the entire time we were open,” muses Becky. “How could we possibly continue to do that and raise a family the way we want to? We’re opting for a more flexible alternative.”
That’s actually great news for foodies, since Steve and Becky are now available for private chef duties—first come, first served.
In response to this issue’s challenge, Steve turned without hesitation to one of their customers’ favorites, a country paté or terrine with dried fruit, plum brandy, and sherry. Revealing his natural attention to fine detail, Steve explains, “This recipe has been developed over the past few years with various ingredients coming and going. It’s based on traditional French technique, but I omit lining the terrine mold with fat back, bacon, caul fat or other linings used to add moisture. Instead, I bake this in a water bath. Most patés or terrines are marinated with some type of spirit, preferably of the highest caliber. For this terrine, I have chosen Koenig Plum Brandy (eau de vie) and Lustau East India Solera Sherry. Even though the amount of spirit used seems rather small, the end product is quite dependent upon the quality that is used.”
Country Pate with Dried Plums
Meat grinder, food processor, or sharp knife
Terrine mold with a capacity of at least 1 3/8 quart—“I use a rectangular Le Creuset, 12-inch by 4-inch.”
Larger ovenproof pan for water bath
Mortar and pestle, or small coffee/spice grinder
3 bay leaves
8 juniper berries
1 tsp. whole coriander seed
1/4 tsp. whole pink peppercorns
32 oz. diced pork belly
10 oz. fat back, diced
15 oz. pork liver, diced
3 oz. foie gras, diced (or substitute
pork, chicken, or duck liver)
15 oz. chicken breast, diced
3 T. celery, finely diced
4 T. shallots, finely diced
3 T. chopped herbs (any
combination of chervil, parsley, thyme, or tarragon)
1 T. chopped garlic
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. curing salt
1/4 tsp. four spice (quatre epices)
1 T. kosher salt
Cayenne, “not too much,
a sprinkle or two.”
12 chopped prunes
3 oz. Lustau East India
3 oz. Koenig Plum Brandy
32 oz. chicken stock, or low-
sodium canned broth
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
“I prefer whole wheat.”
2 eggs, “preferably farm fresh.”
Put first four ingredients in mor-
tar and pound with pestle until quite broken up, or process in grinder. Put next 17 ingredients in stainless steel mixing bowl and add above spices, mix thoroughly, and flatten into a bowl. Press plastic wrap down on top of meat mixture, and then cover the entire top of the bowl with another piece of plastic. Put in refrigerator and marinate for at least 12 hours, but up to 36 hours.
Place meat grinder (if available)
in refrigerator to chill.
When ready to prepare terrine:
Preheat oven to 300° F.
Prepare a hot-water bath in the larger oven-ready pan.
In saucepan, reduce chicken stock over medium heat until volume is approximately 1/4 cup. Chill.
Slightly beat the eggs.
If not using meat grinder, process meat mixture in batches with food processor or knife, always keeping final product over an ice bath. It’s best to have different-size pieces.
Or, assemble the chilled grinder. “I use both a fine grinder plate and a medium grinder plate, and process half of the marinated meat through each.”
Once meat is processed, add chilled, reduced chicken stock (not completely solidified), breadcrumbs, and eggs. Mix with hands to incorporate. “Fry up a bit to test for seasoning. Adjust if necessary.”
Pack into terrine mold. “It may mound up, depending on your mold, and this is fine.” Place filled terrine mold into hot-water bath, letting the water come about 3/4 of the way up the mold. Put water bath in oven and bake until a meat thermometer reads 140° F (about 11/2 hours), rotating pan at one hour.
Remove from oven, letting the terrine cool in the water bath. After an hour, remove terrine from water bath and place on a sheet tray large enough to accommodate mold.
Chill overnight in refrigerator, pressing with weight if desired.
Serve with toasted, buttered baguette,
Steve’s fabulous Elephant Heart Plum Preserves, and delicate greens such as arugula with Belgium endive chiffonade.