A few years ago I was on a tour of the beautiful Beaujolais region of France. Winewriter Evan Saviolidis of Winesavvy and I had been taken for a casual lunchtime meeting/tasting/interview at the winery and home of a young, artisanal vigneron named Julien Sunier. Julien’s wife, Sylvie Potel (Yes, that Potel), had prepared for our lunch a rustic terrine made with local wild boar.
Despite its meatloaf-like appearance this terrine was an explosion of flavours and such amazingly tasty fat. Evan and I happily gorged ourselves on the stuff as we tasted through the range of Julien’s wines. I distinctly remember thinking that rainy afternoon “You know, I must try that sometime…”, but after innumerable glasses of Morgon, Régnié, and Fleurie, that personal statement of intent disappeared into a very particular Beaujolais-misted ether. Good times.
It’s mid November of 2014 and I find myself having to clean out our old freezer compartment as we had an eighth of a cow arriving in the next four days. In doing so I find myself with a erratically labelled collection of animal bits:
- lamb tongue
- lamb kidneys
- lamb liver
- lamb sweetbreads
- ox kidney
- ox liver
- pig heart
- pig liver
- pig kidneys
24 hours after laying these odd parts to defrost, I suddenly realised that I’d better work out just what to do with them reasonably sharpish, as most offal, especially liver and kidneys, disintegrate and spoil perilously quickly after coming around from their frozen stasis.
In a flailing panic mode quite typical for my kitchen misadventures, I chose to skim through a recipe or two before coming up with my own take on the matter at hand, one that would best suit the imminently unusable bits and bobs in my fridge.
In this first terrine I decided to purée most of the offal in a food processor, adding a tiny bit of double cream. The heart and tongue went for a 24 hour marination in Armagnac, garlic, and herbs but eventually found themselves liquified also.
The delicious but oh-so-perishable sweetbreads I stripped of their pesky membrane and tore into small pieces.
Through some trial and error I have come to learn that it is best to base your terrine around some of the following:
- chicken thighs (deboned, some skin on is good as it help with gelatinous nature of the finished product, a 24 hour marination in Calvados/Armagnac/icewine with garlic and lemon juice/zest also helps)
- pork cutlets (tenderised if possible, and as per the chicken thighs a 24 hour marination in calvados/armagnac/icewine with garlic and lemon juice/zest also helps)
- rabbit or pheasant meat (deboned, and much like the two components above, they both benefit from a good old marination)
- fatty ground pork (I like to cut this with finely cut leeks and lots of herbs such as thyme, parsley, sage, or rosemary)
With all of the above be sure to season with a fair bit of salt and pepper… on my second terrine I realised that I had forgotten to add seasoning only after I had wrapped the bugger up and placed it in the oven. Cue a frantic disassembly of the carefully leek-wrapped parcel… and a real mess on the kitchen counter.
Ah, I guess that second terrine was just never meant to be…
- Heat your oven up to 340 degrees
- Grease up a loaf pan (or a terrine dish if you happen to have one) with some melted lard, or, in a pinch with butter/olive oil.
- Then line with a few sheets of plastic wrap, leaving quite a bit overhanging.
- Proceed to line the pan with rashers of some good quality fatty bacon, leaving lots overhanging that can cover the top of the terrine once the pan is filled, but be sure to flatten them all with the back of a knife first, otherwise it will cost you a freaking fortune in bacon, and if the bacon is heavily smoked then that amount of bacony flavour will totally overpower the rest of the ingredients of the terrine.
- Cut the chicken thighs/pheasant/rabbit/pork cutlets into small 1 inch x 1 inch pieces and mix in with the ground pork, leeks, and herbs.
- If you just happen to have any foie gras lying around (you never know!) then right now would be a good time to chuck it in, as a little goes a long way in this recipe. Just be sure to chop it up into small pieces. This is a great way to stretch one of those little cans of foie actually.
- Add pistachios (shelled and peeled), green peppercorns, or cornichons at this point if that kind of thing takes your fancy.
- Now if you have chosen to liquify some offal add it to the mixture at this point but please BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL as too much liquid in the mix causes all kinds of problems (as you’ll see in the picture at the bottom).
- Fill your bacon-lined pan with your meaty mixture until it reaches half an inch over the top of the pan, then fold your bacon over to cover the meat.
- Cover the top of the pan really tightly with a double layer of foil and place in a bain-marie.
- To press the terrine I found it useful to use a dirty great big housebrick, both during cooking and for the two days after as I allowed the terrine’s flavour to develop.
- Fill the bain-marie with boiling water halfway up the sides of the loaf/terrine pan and very carefully place in your already hot oven.
- Cook for one hour, extremely carefully remove from oven, remove pan from bain-marie and allow to cool.
- Store chilled for at least 48 hours, with housebrick on top.
- To serve, warm briefly in a bain-marie, extract from pan, slice and serve.
- Keeps really well refrigerated for around 10 days, in fact it seems to improve flavour-wise up until day 10.
And here ends my diatribe on the beauty that can be terrine.
All of the above are less a recipe and more suggestions from my limited experience cooking the things.
I hope that if you try some of these suggestions out you have as much fun as I have had experimenting.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’s now known as Mr. Terrine… not really.