If you ever invested your time and energy cooking anything French classic, you probably noticed that the best things always have the least number of components. For example, classic Boeuf Bourguignon only has five or six ingredients, it’s the method that brings forth the most flavor and makes this the best tasting (and looking) stew you’ll ever have. And of course, world famous croissants — it’s all just butter and flour, and bit of chilled water and salt. The rest is elbow grease and just the right technique. This has always fascinated me about French cookery. And how great everything looks when it’s done just right!
Today’s ramblings are about terrine — a molded work of art, which can be anything from meatloaf to cheese souffle, to spinach wrapped prong mousse, to… to whatever your fantasy will allow. Terrine is French sushi, if you like to think of it this way. With the right technique, you can make it from anything.
I found this particular recipe in a very nice book on Cordon Bleu technique, and it was mentioned sort of by the way, somewhere on the side of the page as a sample “basic terrine”. Like anything “basic French”, it only had a few things in it, so the key is the prep. While I don’t claim to have just the right technique (nor the right type of bacon, incidentally), I thought it turned out well enough to mention in a blog.
And though I am certain that true Cordon Bleu chefs will snub this and find numerous flaws in my final product, I think spreading the word is much more important here. I am about to acquire a book or two on terrines, because this recipe opened up a whole new world of cooking to me, of which I knew near nothing.
First time I made this terrine in 2008, when I decided to go on a French kick for a week, and found myself savagely exhausted by Wednesday. This was my Wednesday dish, and I found it was quite easy to make, though initially I was disappointed by the time it takes to cook and glaze. The result was well worth the wait, however. The terrine came out very pretty, but I didn’t have any photographing skill back then and now I haven’t any proof that this even happened, other than the sweet memories [sigh], and well, this.
I haven’t attempted this again for a long time. Alas, rabbit dishes aren’t on the top 99 favorites list in my family. I typically have to beg and plea with the loved ones for weeks before I make anything rabbit. But this time, rabbit found us without any warning. We just chanced upon it at a local farmer’s market, and so it was settled — terrine must be made!
Two things I found in my experience that are worth mentioning. First of all, less is more. Don’t over-chop the farce, don’t over-mince it. Think of it as salsa processing. Not too coarse, but not too fine either. Of course, if you are a fan of a smoother, creamier texture, go ahead and mince away. Second, do not skip steps. There are just no shortcuts in French cookery. With every shortcut you lose something important in the flavor development process.
Other than that, bon chance!
Rabbit Terrine With Cranberries & Pistachios
Adapted from Le Cordon Bleu Complete Cooking Techniques
- 1 rabbit, about 3 lbs, bones removed, flesh cubed, yielding about 1-1/2 lbs of meat
- 3 large shallots, coarsely chopped
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup cream
- salt, pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme or parsley
- 2 tbsp shelled pistachios
- 2 tbsp dried cranberries
- 1 pack of thin sliced bacon (don’t be like me and purchase thick ones by mistake)
- about 1-1/2 cup clear stock
- 1 pack of unflavored gelatin
Remove bones of the rabbit, using a sharp knife. This is the most tedious part.
Put rabbit meat, shallots and herbs in the processor and pulse at first, then process to your favorite consistency.
Fold the farce out into a bowl, work in the eggs, cream, salt and pepper. Add pistachios and cranberries last.
Line a terrine mold or a meatloaf pan with foil. I like to do that so that it’s easier to lift the loaf out of the pan when it’s done.
Line the pan with bacon slices in such a way so that slices overlap slightly on the bottom, and the remaining length of them hangs outside the pan. See photo for reference.
Place the terrine farce into the pan over the bacon. Wrap overhanging bacon slices over the terrine using some sort of pattern.
Cover the pan with foil, place it in the middle of a deep roasting pan filled with water.
Cook at 400°F for about 2 hours. Check the water level in the bottom pan to avoid burning or drying. You can uncover the terrine in the last 15 minutes or so to brown up the bacon on the top if desire.
Remove from the oven and, tilting the pan carefully, pour off excess bacon fat.
To glaze, warm the stock up until hot (not boiling). Sprinkle gelatin flakes of the stock and stir gently until gelatin dissolves. Uncover the terrine and pour the stock slowly over it, until stock comes level with the terrine.
Cool to room temperature and place in the fridge overnight.
Carefully lift terrine out of the pan using the bottom foil sheet edges. Serve cold or at room temperature. Slice gently with serrated knife.