Sunday, August 2, 2009

Challenging ourselves usually turns out pretty darn good.

So far, each visit to Nick & Louisa has yielded one culinary challenge. Two years ago, it was brioche. Last year, the pork belly-off. This year, it was terrine.

Louisa bought a terrine ages ago, but hadn't worked up the nerve to tackle the job. Sometimes, though, all you need to get the job done is an extra set of hands. And, as it turns out, terrine is remarkably easy - it just has a few delicate assembly-like tasks mixed in with the cooking.

Terrine comes in many varieties, including seafood, vegetable, and offal. For our first foray, we chose something more traditional and basic, Julia Child's terrine de porc, veau et jambon (pork and veal pate with ham). This recipe looked tackle-able and gave us a chance to try out Louisa's other new and slightly intimidating toy, her Kitchen Aid meat grinder attachment.

Louisa ground the pork and half the veal with the lard (oh, yes, indeed) while I marinated the other half of the veal in a mixture of cognac, allspice, thyme and shallots. That marinade was eventually added to the ground filling, along with some sauteed onion, minced garlic and a port reduction.

While Louisa busied herself with the stuffing, I blanched some bacon, which we needed to line the terrine and seal the pate together. Blanching bacon is just like blanching vegetables: drop the slices into boiling water, cook for a few minutes, then cool in an ice bath to stop the cooking. This is an essential step, since it prevents the bacon from shrinking when you bake the terrine.

Once the bacon was cool, I used it to line the terrine, leaving some overhang to fold over the top. Louisa filled the terrine with alternating layers of the forcemeat, the marinated veal, and some sliced, boiled ham. We placed the lid on, and put the terrine in the oven to bake for about 90 minutes.

Once the terrine was done cooking, it was time to turn it from meatloaf to pâté by compressing it with weight. We cut a piece of carboard to fit snugly into the terrine, then stacked four cans of soup on top. The terrine sat on the counter for the next five hours, squishing itself into the right texture.

Five hours later, we pulled the improvised weights and cardboard away to reveal the juicy exterior of the terrine. Ideally, you would refrigerate the terrine for another few hours, still weighted, to allow the fat in the mixture to firm up a bit and hold things even more closely together - but we had banh mi to make, and couldn't help ourselves. (We did refrigerate the weighted terrine overnight once we'd taken a few slices for dinner.)

The terrine sliced easily, and didn't fall apart, even though it hadn't yet been chilled. Inside the bacon wrappings was a gorgeous interior of tender pork & veal (all the more tender for being home-ground), bits of the marinated veal, the juicy ham, and the slightly boozy and autumnal flavors of the cognac, port and allspice.

The terrine was fantastic on our banh mi (more on those soon), and delicious on its own, served on baguette with a smear of grainy mustard, topped with a cornichon. Well worth the effort, it was more tender and flavorful than any commerical pâté I've tried.

I'd love to try adding some cognac-soaked prunes or some more aggressive seasonings to the mix - one of the cool things about pate is what a great canvas it is for experimentation. After all, the original purpose of charcuterie was to use up scraps of this and that - so why not begin at the beginning and get creative?


Erin said...

Fabulous! It looks like the ultimate snacking food--for any season. :)

Meg Blocker said...

It really is - it was so delicious, and, now that we know the process, fairly simple, too!

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