A terrine is a fabulous food from the charcuterie family that I enjoy making when my husband brings home pheasant or quail from his hunting trips in November, December, and January.
I love including slices of terrine on an hors d’oeuvres spread, for aprés ski time by a fireplace. Not that I ski, but I will put on a warm sweater and enjoy a terrine with good bread, some accoutrements, and of course wine.
So what is a terrine? Well, it’s not liver. To this day, my husband will not eat my terrines because he is sure I have snuck liver into them. There’s NO liver in a terrine, unless of course you want there to be.
It is a mixture of ground meats, flavored and seasoned and cooked with lots of fat so that although dense, they’re moist and flavorful.
You can make layered terrines with multiple meats, or place sausages in the middle, or even cooked eggs, so that the slices are pretty. I don’t do anything artistic, but I do sometimes adding nuts and dried fruits to the meat mixtures so that the terrine is texturally interesting.
What sets a terrine aside from say, a meat loaf? First, there’s a substantial amount of fat incorporated into the terrine mixture to prevent dryness. Secondly, the mixture is marinated in herbs and spices, plus Cognac and Madeira, before cooking begins.
Terrines are cooked slowly in a Bain Marie, and afterwards are weighted down to help create the dense texture. See how well they slice?
In other words, this ain’t no meat loaf!
Terrines are best served at room temperature, but cold is good too. Some people turn leftover slices into yummy sandwiches.
Country Game Terrine
4 tablespoons butter or duck fat
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 pounds fatty pork shoulder or butt, coarsely ground
1 pound mixed game meat or pheasant only, coarsely ground
1/2 pound ham, diced
Large handful chopped parsley
4 tablespoons Cognac
3 tablespoons Madeira or white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 cup dried cranberries or diced dried cherries
1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
Bacon slices, about 36 ounces
3 bay leaves
Heat the butter over moderate heat in a medium skillet, and sauté until soft. Stir in the garlic, thyme, salt, black pepper, white pepper, allspice, and nutmeg and remove the skillet from the heat.
In a large bowl place the pork, game, and ham. I had to grind the pork first, a coarse grind, followed by a more fine grinding for the quail. The hardest part for this step is remembering how to put the damn meat grinder together.
Add the cognac and the Madeira to the meats, plus slightly cooled onion and spice mixture and parsley. I also went ahead and added the cranberries.
Give everything a good stir, cover the bowl, and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, test the terrine mixture for seasoning by frying up a little bit in a skillet and taste. Adjust seasoning accordingly. The parsley, allspice, thyme, and cognac are extremely important flavors.
Then stir in the heavy cream and egg yolks until well combined. Fold in the pistachios.
Line a loaf pan generously with bacon slices, allowing them to hang over the loaf pan.
Fill the terrine firmly with the meat. Place the bay leaves on the top of the terrine mixture, then fold over the bacon slices to cover completely.
You don’t have to have as much fun as I did with the bacon, because you’re going to be removing it in any case.
Bring the terrine to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and prepare a large, deep pan with water in which to cook the terrine.
Cover the pan with foil tightly; a double layer would be ideal. Place the loaf pan in the water bath and let it bake for about 1 1/2 hours. But many different factors would change the time. So ideally, use an oven probe thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the terrine.
After the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F, remove the pan from the water bath and place on a counter top. Remove the foil to let any steam escape. Leave it alone for about one hour.
Notice I forgot the place the bay leaves under the bacon…
Place clean parchment paper over the top of the loaf pan, and cover with another loaf pan that fits inside it, with weights on top. These can be canned goods or bricks. If you think some of the remaining juices will overflow, cover the bottom with foil topped with paper towels.
Leave it like this until the terrine cools completely, then place in the refrigerator and chill it for 24 hours.
To serve, remove the terrine from the loaf pan carefully, remove the bacon strips and bay leaves, and slice crosswise into 1/2” slices.
The terrine is best served at room temperature.
The cranberry and pistachio combination make this terrine more festive. But just about any dried fruit and nut combination can be used, like diced dried apricot and hazelnuts.
Whatever meat you use, just make sure there’s fat inside, or the terrine will be dry. I learned that the hard way.
Nuts and dried fruits are fun, but not a necessity. And hopefully you can see that no real recipe is needed for a terrine. Just have fun!