I remember making my first pâté when I was a snotty eight year-old: my great grandmother was busy preserving mushrooms in the main kitchen and I was on the lookout for something to eat. I opened a tin of sardines and mashed it into a paste with an equal amount of butter. My great grandmother remarked that if I were to lay the paste onto a sheet of grease-proof paper and refrigerate it, it would become firm in a matter of minutes like rillettes, and presto! I was hooked. Pic below is of a country terrine, wrapped in vine leaves.
That week she taught me how to make a proper chicken liver pâté, and a few years later I ventured into making terrines, a charcuterie trick that may look complicated to master but is in fact a lot easier once you learn the art of bricklaying. Bricklaying? Surely, you jest. Not really. I will demonstrate how to make the perfect game terrine without breaking a sweat!
A brief history might help to understand the differences and similarities between pâtés and terrines: a terrine is a glazed earthenware dish (from the French “terre” meaning earth) with the width and depth pretty much the same with twice the length and usually it comes with a lid. A terrine has distinct layers of meat, vegetables or fish, whereas a pâté is more or less homogeneous. There are thousands of variations of terrine, from the traditional duck & pork to a Provencal-style ratatouille (see pic below, I call it a pâté de Bourgeois
,) from a complicated & multi-layered sea-food extravaganza to a delicate goose liver terrine flavored with apricot brandy (recipe follows). Terrines can be as complex as you wish and can be also cooked en croûte (in pastry) and lined with a variety of thin slices of bacon, pancetta, Parma ham, caul, eggplant skins, vine leaves et cetera.
Traditionally cooked in an earthenware dish (by the way, you don’t need to spend a fortune on a terrine dish, quite often I use a bread tin), cut in thick slices and served cold, a terrine is an extremely versatile item that can be eaten with a number of side dishes, lightly dressed salads or just pickles, chutney and rustic bread. To cut through the richness of the pressed meat, I would serve a salad made with pungent leaves such as rocket, radiccio & watercress. Note that a terrine needs extra salt and pepper as it is a highly compacted meat product and most likely to be served cold (I have served warm terrines in the past and I have to say that I’m not a fan, which would explain why a meatloaf tastes better the next day, cold.)
A terrine can last two to three days in a refrigerator so leftovers are always welcome and make tasty sandwiches. If you can’t find either goose livers or apricot brandy, substitute with chicken livers and a reasonable brandy will do. Since this diary is written specifically for the uninitiated (or terrine-shy, as I call them) it doesn’t really matter what type of liver ends up in it as long as the cooking process is clearly understood. Believe me, if you can find goose liver and apricot or yellow plum brandy, it is well worth the sourcing: your stomach will thank you and your head will swim in pure joy! So without much ado, here we go. Goose liver pic below.
Goose Liver Terrine with Apricot Brandy:
For a regular-sized terrine you will need 1 pound of goose livers, 1 pound of minced pork neck, 6 ounces of crumbled ham, minced roughly, 4 ounces of speck (which will be cubed finely), 4 to 6 ounces of very thin cured bacon, to wrap the terrine, a bunch of shallots, 6 garlic cloves, peeled, 3 whole free range eggs, half a cup of heavy cream, a knob of butter, a large pinch of rock salt (roughly 3 tablespoons), same with freshly ground pepper, a few bay leaves and if you can get it, a few sprigs of fresh thyme. And let’s not forget the brandy! You will need half a glass of it to soak the livers overnight in.
Proceed with the cleaning and the trimming up the livers first and soak them overnight in a half glass of apricot brandy. The next day, chop up the shallots and the garlic roughly. Over medium heat in a small frying pan, add the knob of butter and cook the shallots & garlic for a minute till soft. Add the chopped up speck and stir for a minute. Add the goose liver (whole) and cook lightly for two to three minutes, until they become firm on the outside but not entirely cooked. Set aside. You can deal with the pork neck mince either ways: you get your butcher to mince it for you, not too fine, it should be lumpy, not smooth, or you can do it yourself which I would suggest: chop it up with a good blade (do not use a food processor or the centrifugal force will cook it for you) into little lumps. In a large bowl put the minced pork, add the three eggs, the thick cream, the brandy which soaked the livers, the salt & pepper, the spices and mix well with a rubber spatula. When well mixed, add the crumbled ham bits and mix again slowly.
Next, line a terrine (or a bread tin) with the strips of thin bacon, as the pic below shows.
Ok so far? Now comes the bricklaying: at the bottom of the terrine, spoon a half inch layer of the pork mince mix (your mortar) and on top, arrange a layer of goose liver, then the mix, then another layer of goose livers, and so on until the pork mix and the livers are finished. Cover nicely with the bacon strips and stick a few bay leaves on top. Cover the whole thing with a layer of tin foil and place the terrine into a bain-marie (water bath). Cook the terrine gently in the bain-marie for 90 minutes (when a knife comes out clean from the center, it’s cooked). Note: in the bain-marie, add enough simmering water to come about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way up the mold’s sides. When it’s cooked, take out the terrine from the oven, remove it from the bain-marie and place a wooden tray on top with one or two large tins to weigh the terrine down and compress it as it cools. It’s very important to do this or it will crumble away when you cut it. When it’s cool, stick it in the refrigerator for a few days before serving as the flavor of the terrine will improve with age.