Country Game Terrine

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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!

Pheasant

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My husband, when he was young, hunting with his bird dog Penny, in Kansas

My husband, when he was young, hunting with his bird dog Penny

In 1981, when I met my husband-to-be, I liked him immediately. Like grew into love, and within 3 months we eloped and moved in together.

Now that’s not something I would recommend to people, like getting married at 16, but it has worked for us. However, there are things that you can’t learn about a person in 3 months.

It was well after we married that I learned my husband was a hunter. I nearly fainted. It was too late for an annulment, but trust me, I wasn’t happy.

During my last years of high school, I lived in Park City, Utah, which is a big deer and elk hunting area. I worked at a diner back then, so every year I had to put up with these drunk guys stopping in for meals, making feeble attempts at sobering up, as well as being crudely obnoxious to me.

These guys would fly into Utah for long weekends of gun- and man-bonding, shooting anything and everything that moved. I remember seeing dead horses and cows that were killed by these idiots during their drunken hunting fests. Sometimes if they kept the deer or elk, they would leave the entrails behind to rot. So believe me. I wasn’t keen on hunters.

My husband told me that first of all, he only killed birds, no four-legged animals. That made me feel better, although I’m not sure why. And he also explained to me that he was trained at an early age on the sport of hunting, and on gun handling.

But it was still really hard to believe that when he’d go out with his buddies for their annual pheasant and quail shoot over the years, that there wasn’t drinking involved. But this was serious business, he claimed, and at least during the time they were hunting, there was no drinking. And at nighttime, it sounded like after walking 10 or 15 miles, they were just happy to go to sleep.

It’s a touchy subject, this hunting thing, which is why I’m not offering up this post as a debate forum. I’ve loosened up about hunting over the past years, and of course I’m especially understanding of people who hunt because they must. That makes complete sense to me.

Out of respect, my husband keeps his shotgun out of my sight, because I don’t even like seeing it, and he’s never asked me to join him. He also doesn’t go on hunts where all the birds are sent flying towards you, which really is no sport at all.

I will never touch a gun and I will never shoot an animal. That I know. I (sort of) understand that it’s a sport, and if there’s no waste, that’s a good thing. But here’s the thing. I fish. In fact, I love to fish. And I do eat the fish. And I also step on spiders. Happily. So what’s the difference?

So most every bird season since we’ve been married, depending on where we were living, my husband went hunting, and on good days he would bring home pheasants and quail.

Quail are so small that I always poached them and fed the meat to our dogs. I really didn’t know what else to do with them.

Pheasants, of course, are bigger. I cooked them a few times in the early years, the best I could. But the first time you bite down on a metal buck shot, you become a bit timid about eating more pheasant.

Buck shot, being so tiny, is easy to miss when you’re cleaning the birds. But discovering it with your teeth is like finding a popcorn kernel you didn’t expect in your bag of fluffy popcorn. Except these tiny metal balls will make your ears ring and your teeth hurt, and crack, if you’re really unlucky.

So pheasant meat also became dog food, which the dogs loved. Sadly, I never really viewed pheasant as “gourmet” game that I was lucky to have in my freezer. But this year, I decided it was time to actually work on preparing pheasant.

My first attempt was the recipe Pheasant with Green Chiles. The only challenge is to not overcook the pheasant breasts; they are lean and dry out easily.

After this pheasant experience, I decided the sous vide process would be the best way to cook tender juicy pheasant. Coming soon!