One of the basic components of charcuterie and garde manger items is a preparation known as a forcemeat. A forcemeat is a lean meat and fat emulsion that is established when the ingredients are processed together by grinding, sieving, or puréeing.
Depending on the grinding and emulsifying methods and the intended use, the forcemeat may have a smooth consistency or may be heavily textured and coarse. The result must not be just a mixture but an emulsion, so that it will hold together properly when sliced. Forcemeats should have a rich and pleasant taste and feel in the mouth.
Components of Force Meats
Meats- It is the major component of the forcemeat. The type of meat included is pork, veal, beef, poultry, fish, lamb, and game. Pork is often included in the forcemeats because pork has a neutral flavour that can easily take the flavour of the dominant meat. It also has high degree of water retention, which aids in the production of moist forcemeats. Pork is also cheaper than other meats.
Quality of meat will determine the quality of forcemeat. The body and structure of the product depends on the meat for the matrix of protein in which the fat particles of the forcemeats are suspended. The variation in the colouring of the forcemeats is the result of colouring properties of the dominant meat
Fat- Fats generally contributes flavour to the forcemeats. It also contributes binding power and texture to the forcemeats. Pork fat is considered best as it is economical, has neutral flavour and has the ideal melting point for production of the forcemeat. Lamb fat is hard and has a strong flavour therefore it is limited to few preparation of lamb.
Egg- The major contribution of the egg in forcemeat preparation is to give binding power and firmer texture. Eggs are not used in sausage making.
If curing salt is added in forcemeats then it has a dual role and that is to fix the processed meat’s colour and inhibit the growth of bacteria. Spices are normally responsible for the distinctive flavour characteristics of the various forcemeats.
Here are four-spice and herb combination that can be blended into a forcemeat:
Bay leaf————-1 oz
Nutmeg————-1 ½ oz
Black Pepper——1 ½ oz
Cayenne Pepper–¼ oz
White Pepper——1/3 oz
Black Pepper—–1/6 oz
Bay leaf————1/6 oz
1/6 oz of pate spice is used per pound of forcemeat.
Garnishes such as mushroom, pistachio nuts dried currants may be added to the forcemeats after they are prepared .the garnishes can be partially cooked.
It is a paste prepared from flour, bread, rice or some other starch product. It is added for three reasons:
- For binding
- To make the product lighter
- To contribute to the seasoning of the forcemeat.
Panada is used less in today’s kitchen, where improved technology and equipment have made it possible to create a better emulsion. If a panada is used it should not be added more than 20%of the total weight of the forcemeat. There are 5 types of panada:-
1) Bread Panada
Equal quantity of fresh breadcrumbs and boiled milk are added together to make and stirred in a saucepan until they thicken. Such type of panada is generally used in fish forcemeats.
This type of panada is generally used for quenelles and is prepared the same way as choux paste.
2) Frangipane Panada
Egg Yolk—————————–4 Nos
Melted Butter———————90 Ml
Flour and egg yolk is mixed thoroughly and then melted butter is added to the same. Adding boiling milk to the mixture then thins the mixture. The panada is cooked slowly and by mixing it vigorously. This panada is used for poultry and fish.
3) Potato Panada
Boiled Potato———————250 Gms
Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg———–T.T.
Milk is seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg and is then reduced to 1/6th. Butter and thinly sliced boiled potato are added. This type of panda is used for quenelles of white meats.
4) Rice Panada
Rice and butter are added to clear stock and is cooked for over 50 minutes. The cooked rice is then made into a smooth paste and cooled in a buttered dish.
Forcemeats may be used for quenelles, sausages, pâtés, terrines, roulades, and galantines, as well as to prepare stuffings for other items (a salmon forcemeat may be used to fill a paupiette of sole, for example). Each forcemeat style will have a particular texture. The five basic forcemeat styles are:
1) Straight Forcemeats
Combine pork and pork fat with a dominant meat in equal parts, through a process of progressive grinding and emulsification. The meats and fat are cut into cubes, seasoned, cured, rested, ground and processed.
2) Country-Style Forcemeats
Are rather coarse in texture. They are traditionally made from pork and pork fat, often with a percentage of liver and other garnish ingredients.
3) Gratin Forcemeats
Some portion of the dominant meat is sautéed and cooled before it is ground. The term gratin means “browned.”
A very light forcemeat, is based on tender, lean white meats such as veal, poultry, fish, or shellfish. The inclusion of cream and eggs gives mousselines their characteristic light texture and consistency.
5) 5/4/3 Emulsion Style
This forcemeat is used extensively for sausage making and less often used in kitchens. Its name is derived from the ratio of its components. The components are 5 parts of meats, 4 parts of fat and 3 parts of ice. This can be made from any type of meat but fish. The texture should be a perfectly smooth one. A variety of binder including non-fat dry milk is used in the production of this type of forcemeat
Forcemeats, like sausages, are made from raw products, with the exception of the gratin forcemeat. Some classic choices for forcemeats include pork; fish such as pike, trout, or salmon; seafood such as shrimp and scallops; game meats such as venison, boar, or rabbit; poultry and game birds; and poultry, game, veal, or pork livers. When selecting cuts of red and white meat, opt for well-exercised cuts, since they have a richer flavour than very tender cuts, such as the tenderloin or loin. However, meats to be used as garnishes can easily be the more delicate portions: tenderloin of lamb, rabbit, or pork, or poultry breasts, for example. Often, recipes for shrimp or scallop mousseline call for a quantity of pike to ensure a good primary bind.
An adequate amount of fat is also important. Fatback is considered to have a neutral flavour and can be paired with most meats. Mousselines made from delicate white meats, fish, or shellfish generally call for heavy cream.
To prepare the meat and fatback for a forcemeat, it should first be trimmed of any gristle, sinew, or skin. The meat is then cut into dice, so it can drop easily through the feed tube of a grinder or be quickly processed to a paste in a food processor.
Salt and Seasonings
Salt plays a vital role in producing good forcemeats. The salt acts to draw out the proteins in the meat (these proteins are the primary source of the forcemeat’s “bind”), and it also adds its own unique flavour. Classic recipes often call for ground spices such as quatre épices, which is a combination of pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Seasoning or marinating meat prior to grinding will further enhance its flavour.
Herbs, aromatic vegetables such as onions or mushrooms, wines, cognacs, grain-based spirits, or vinegars may also be added. In some cases, a reduction of garlic or shallots, herbs, wines, glace de viande or volaille, and other flavouring ingredients may be made. This reduction should be thoroughly chilled before adding it to the meats.
It is always important to follow basic formulas carefully as you are learning to make forcemeats, and to properly test and taste forcemeats each time you make them.
The proteins in meats and fish are the basic source of the forcemeat’s structure, texture, and bind. In some special cases, however, you may need to add a secondary binder, which is generally required for country-style and gratin forcemeats. There are three basic types of secondary binders: eggs, non-fat dry milk powder, and panadas. Panadas are made from starchy (farinaceous) items—well-cooked, puréed rice or potatoes, bread soaked in milk, or pâte à choux, which is a dough made from flour, water, butter and eggs.
Garnishes give the chef an opportunity to add colour, flavour, and texture to a basic formula. Some traditional garnishes include the poultry breast, pork, beef, veal, or lamb tenderloin portions, nuts (especially pistachios and pine nuts), mushrooms, truffles, and diced foie gras. The quantity of garnish added to a forcemeat can range from a few chopped nuts scattered throughout a pâté to a terrine in which there is a predominant garnish bound together with a small amount of forcemeat or aspic. You can add garnishes to a forcemeat in two ways. They can be simply folded into the forcemeat; in that case they are known as internal or random garnishes.
The second means of introducing the garnish is to place it in the forcemeat as you are filling the mould or laying it out for a roulade or galantine. These garnishes are known as inlays, though you may also hear them called centered garnishes.
Care should be taken to shape and place the garnish so that each slice will have a uniform, consistent appearance, whether the slice comes from the end or center of the pâté.
If you are preparing forcemeat items for display or competition, you may want to dust garnish items very lightly with a bit of powdered gelatine or albumen (dried and powdered egg whites) or a combination of these two items, to glue them into place. This will improve the adherence of the forcemeat to the garnish, making it less likely that they will separate when the item is cut into slice
Chill Ingredients, Chill Equipment
Maintaining both the ingredients and equipment is imperative when preparing forcemeat. This helps keep the forcemeat below 40°F / 4°C, which keeps the food out of the danger zone, reducing the risk of food-borne illness. Temperature control is also the key to achieving the best results. When forcemeats are kept well chilled throughout processing, mixing, and cooking, they require less fat, yet still have a smooth texture and an appealing mouth feel. The flavor of the forcemeat itself is generally better, as well.
The most common piece of equipment for grinding the meats for straight, country, and gratin forcemeats is a meat grinder.
Some forcemeat formulas will call for some or all of the meats and fat to be ground using a method called progressive grinding. Review the recipe to determine if you will need one or more grinding plates. Grind the meat directly into a well-chilled mixing bowl set over ice.
Mousseline forcemeats are typically made from start to finish in a food processor, although some chefs prefer to grind the meat or fish before placing it in the bowl of the food processor. If you make a significant quantity of forcemeats using a food processor, it is a good idea to dedicate one very sharp blade to that purpose only.
Mixing and Processing
Once ground, the forcemeat is mixed in order to blend any seasonings, panadas, or other ingredients thoroughly and evenly. More importantly, an adequate mixing period is crucial to the development of the correct texture.
Mixing can be done by beating the forcemeat with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon over an ice bath, in a mixer, or in a food processor. Care should be taken not to over mix, especially when you use a machine. Be careful not to overload the bowl. Depending on the amount of product, one to three minutes at the lowest speed should be sufficient. The forcemeat’s colour and texture will change slightly when it is properly mixed.
Mixing in a food processor is very fast and provides a smoother texture. Most food processors handle relatively small batches. It is critical to keep an eye on the forcemeat as it processes. Your forcemeat can go from properly processed to over work in a matter of seconds. This can cause pockets or bubbles to form in the item you are preparing, a distraction on a plated item presented to a guest and grounds for losing points in competition work.
Testing a forcemeat
Forcemeats are poached directly in a liquid (as for galantines, roulades, or quenelles) or in a water bath (terrines), or baked in a crust (pâté en croûte). You can only be sure of the quality of the forcemeat after it is cooked, and the method below for testing a forcemeat will give you an opportunity to evaluate the quality, seasoning, and texture.
The test portion itself will not taste or feel exactly the same as the finished product, since it is a general practice to allow the forcemeat items to rest two or three days before they are served. However, with experience, you can train your palate to recognize the evidence of quality or to detect a flaw in a forcemeat. This is the same taste memory, built up through experience and practice that permits a cellar master to foretell with some accuracy the qualities a wine will have when it is mature, even when the wine is actually far too young to drink.
If the texture is poor, evaluate just what kind of problem you have. Rubbery forcemeat can be improved by adding more fat and cream. Loose forcemeat, on the other hand, may be improved by adding egg whites or a bit of panada. However, take into account whether or not the item will be pressed or coated with aspic before you make a dramatic change.
This basic forcemeat is used to prepare pâtés, terrines, and galantines. It is generally made by grinding the meat and fat through a medium plate, then further processing it in a mixer or food processor.
Process the ground meat with any additional ingredients. An egg may be added to the forcemeat to give a better bind. A quantity of heavy cream may also be included in some recipes to give the forcemeat a smooth texture and a richer flavour, if desired.
Once the forcemeat is tested and any adjustments to seasoning or consistency have been made, you may add garnish ingredients. This may be done in the mixer or by hand, working over an ice bath to keep the forcemeat properly chilled.
Straight forcemeats may be used to fill a pâté en croûte, or to prepare terrines and galantines.
Country-style forcemeats are less refined in texture and heartier in flavour than others and are traditionally made from pork and pork liver.
The texture of this forcemeat is achieved by grinding the pork through a coarse die, then reserving most of this coarse grind. If desired, a portion of the ground meat may be ground again through a medium die before the forcemeat is blended with its panada and processed as for a straight forcemeat.
The coarsely ground meat as well as the processed forcemeat is then combined. Because at least part of the forcemeat is left as a coarse grind, a panada is almost always included to help the finished product hold together after cooking.
A gratin forcemeat is similar to a straight forcemeat, with the exception of the way in which the main meat is handled. The meat is very quickly seared—just enough to enhance the flavor and color, but not enough to cook it through. The meat is changed enough by the searing that a panada is required to help produce the desired texture.
The first step is to sear the meat. Get the pan or grill very hot, sear the meat on all sides as quickly as possible, and just as quickly cool it down.
The best way to accomplish this is to work in small batches and to avoid crowding the meat in the pan. Remove it to a sheet pan, and cool it quickly in the refrigerator or freezer. An optional step is to prepare an aromatic reduction to flavour the forcemeat.
Follow the same procedure for grinding as for a straight forcemeat, and process it with a panada and any additional ingredients as suggested or required by the recipe. Be sure to test the forcemeat properly before continuing to add the garnish ingredients.
Gratin forcemeats can be used in the same general applications as straight forcemeats.
Although individual recipes will differ, the formula shown below for mousseline forcemeat works as an excellent starting point. The amount of cream indicated will produce a good texture for terrines and other forcemeat items that will be sliced. If the mousseline will be used to prepare a timbale or other similar applications, the quantity of cream can be increased by nearly double the amount indicated below:
- Meat or fish—————————–1 lb / 454 g
- Salt—————————————1 tsp / 3 g
- Egg (or egg white)———————1 large
- Cream————————————8 fl oz / 240 Ml
When preparing a mousseline forcemeat, you may simply dice the main ingredients and proceed to grind them in the food processor, or you may wish to grind the main ingredient through a coarse or medium plate before processing it with an egg white. When using shellfish, it is important to keep in mind that some types of shellfish, such as lobster and wet pack sea scallops, retain more moisture than others and therefore require less cream than the standard ratio indicates.
Process the meat and salt just long enough to develop a paste with an even texture. Add the egg white, followed by the cream.
In order to blend the mousseline properly, it is important to scrape down the bowl. Continue processing only until the forcemeat is smooth and homogenous, generally around thirty seconds.
Optional: For a very light mousseline, you may prefer to work the cream in by hand. This is more time-consuming and exacting than using a food processor, but the results are worth the extra effort. Both the base mixture and the cream must be very cold in order to add the cream in higher proportions than those suggested in the basic formula above. Work over an ice bath for the best results.
Fine forcemeats may be passed through a drum sieve (tamis) to be sure that a very delicate texture is achieved. Be sure that the forcemeat is very cold as you work, and work in small batches to prevent the forcemeat from heating up as you work.
Mousseline forcemeats are often featured as appetizers, fillings, or stuffing, or to coat or wrap poached fish or poultry suprêmes. Another interesting way to use this forcemeat is to layer mousselines with different colours to create a special effect in a terrine.