Forcemeat, from the French word farce for stuffing, refers to meat that has been finely ground and combined with other ingredients. It can be made with any type of meat or fish, and may be mixed with spices, bread crumbs, dried fruit, rice or a variety of other ingredients to produce stand alone dishes like terrines, or to stuff other whole meats. For instance, if you use oysters that are very finely ground in your stuffing for a turkey, you’re using this food.
Another use of forcemeat, especially made with ground pork, beef or chicken, is in sausages of various types. You’ll note that certain sausages, like hot dogs are completely smooth inside. They’re usually a mix of different meats, spices and flavorings that have been completely ground, resulting in what appears to be a single meat. Other sausages are more inventive. For instance, chicken apple sausage has chopped up chicken, apples, and sweet spices like cinnamon.
Quenelles are small fried patties of forcemeat. The ingredients are bound together with eggs, resulting in delicious appetizers. Another example of meat combined with other ingredients is the American meatloaf, which usually adds eggs, breadcrumbs and some ketchup to finely ground beef. Alternately, meat can be rolled into balls and cooked in broth as meatballs.
Some people use finely ground meat specifically for the stuffing of roasting chickens, duck or turkeys. When chickens or duck are stuffed in this manner, the meat is usually dark meat from the actual animal, often taken from the legs and thighs. The extra fat contained in this meat makes for a very rich and flavorful meal and also helps to keep the cavity of the chicken or duck from drying out.
You can use chopped vegetables in this food, to give a dish extra flavor and nutrition. For instance, terrines may be a combination of meat, mushrooms, a few green vegetables and breadcrumbs. Perhaps the most classic of all forcemeats is pâte, liver chopped to a fine paste, to which spices may be added.
If you want to make your own meat mixes, you should aim for the paste-like texture of pâte. This is most easily accomplished if you have a food processor. Forcemeat was invented before the food processor, and you can imagine how much work grinding the meat to make a paste could have been before electricity. When you add meat to the food processor, consider doing a little chopping of the meat first so that it is already in small chunks. Of course you can ask your local butcher to grind the meat first, resulting in much less time needed at home to combine ingredients.