A few years ago Mr. H. and I embarked on the small adventure of making homemade terrines. I can’t remember if the idea or the book came first. What I do remember is that while in France during one of the very first few days of January 2014, we bought this cookbook simply called Terrines by Rodolphe Paquin. I also remember that I loved the elegant design of the book, and I was so excited to learn how to make terrines that I included the book in my hand luggage so that I could devour all the words and pictures during our flight back to Barcelona.
Rodolphe Paquin is considered le roi de la terrine, the terrine king. The book is full of recipes for all types of terrines: meats, fish, vegetables and even sweet terrines for desserts. Even though I have made a monkfish version, most of the terrines I have made are the pork liver type so that’s what I’ll be writing about here today.
I won’t pretend that I’ve clocked up hundreds of terrines of experience -like hundreds of thousands of flying experience makes a good pilot- because let’s face it, regularly eating pork liver terrines should not be a staple part of your everyday diet if you want to avoid cardiovascular disorders or getting plump. However, with the exception of one small detail to adapt to my kitchen which I shall point out later in the recipe, I have made it enough times to have nailed Monsieur Paquin’s technique and mix and match the secondary liqueurs and ingredients to obtain our own new flavours.
Before anything else, what is the difference between pâté and terrine?
In English we usually use the word pâté, but I always post my pâté recipes as terrines even if only because I learnt how to make them from my book called Terrines. But this time I wondered about the precise terminology. I consulted my friend Darya, Mr. H., and of course Google where I came across explanations like here or here. My conclusions are:
Pâte: made of liver and other ingredients, pâtés usually have a finer texture than terrines. They can be made in containers of a wide variety of materials and shapes.
Terrine: also usually made with liver and other ingredients, terrines usually have a rougher and chunkier texture. The container they are made in should be a rectanglish sort of shape and ideally be made out of high quality ceramic that can diffuse high temperatures well.
Foie gras: I’m adding this one as a bonus. Also known just as foie, foie gras is fattened liver -usually duck or goose- cooked over low heat to melt the fats together, and occasionally flavoured with other ingredients. In Spain people often call pâté as foie, which as you can imagine makes French people cringe…
Homemade Pork Liver Terrine Recipe
Ingredients (adapted to fit into my 0.9L terrine dish)
Extrapolate the quantities to fit into the volume of your own terrine dish. The ingredients stated below are to make a general por liver terrine with instructions to make your own flavour combinations.
180gr pork meat – I usually use pork belly but you can use loin cuts instead
275gr pork liver
200gr pork fat – lard version
30-40ml liqueur – I used brandy in this terrine but you can use your liqueur of choice
up to 1/2 cup other ingredients (optional) – such as dried fruits or nuts or both, we used walnuts in this recipe
ground black pepper
1 teaspoon other herbs and spices (optional)
Terrine dish: should be made of high quality ceramic to diffuse heat in the best manner. It should also have a removable ceramic lid. My terrine dish comes with a presse, a flat ceramic piece that you can put on the terrine to compact it down with its weight. If you don’t have a press, Monsieur Paquin’s book states that you can use something like cans of sardines to do this.
Meat grinder: part of the recipe involves grinding the meats that has been marinated in the liqueur, so we decided to invest in a small manual meat grinder so as not to get our butcher to grind already marinated meat. We thought that would be impolite on our behalf. I guess you could get the butcher to grind all the meats and them marinate everything, but it would be different to the technique I learnt through the book. Our meat grinder comes with two metallic parts to control the thickness of grounded meat it produces. Because we want to make a chunkier terrine texture, we choose the one with larger holes to get thicker chunks.
Bain-marie: a metallic recipient big enough to contain your terrine dish in a bain-marie.
Step 1: The evening before the terrine cooking, prepare by cutting the pork meat, liver and lard into 1 inch sized cubes. Put into a large container. Add your liqueur of choice along with the salt, pepper and any spices. Cover and let it marinate overnight in the fridge.
Step 2: On the day of the terrine cooking, grind the pork meats in the order from softest to hardest, which will be this order: pork liver, pork meat, pork fat (lard). Mr. H. usually does this part because the lard can be physically too hard for me to do.
Once you’ve passed the lard through the meat grinder, there is usually still a fair amount of it left within the mechanism of the grinder. Mr. H. discovered a nifty trick to get it out. After grinding the lard, just add a few small pieces of hard stale bread to the grinder. It will move out all the lard, and help clean the insides of the grinder, so it will be easier to wash later too. You can let the stale bread crumb pieces fall into the rest of the meat mix if you want. We’ve proven that its tiny amount doesn’t make any difference to the taste or texture of the terrine.
Step 3: Add any dried fruits and nuts if you wish to, along with the cream and any more herbs and spices that you might want to add. Add anymore salt and pepper if your intuition tells you it needs a touch more. Mix everything together with a spoon.
Step 4: Pour the mixture into the terrine dish. Pat it down with the spoon to try to make it as compact as possible.
Step 5: Cook the terrine. According to my book you cook it in the oven at 180ºC in a bain-marie with the lid on the terrine dish for 35 minutes. Then you cook it in the oven in the bain-marie for another 35 minutes with the lid off.
However, and this is where my little adaptation comes in, because my oven is a bit small, I don’t like to cook in bain-marie inside my oven. What I do instead is that I cook it in a bain-marie on a stove for 35 minutes with the lid of the terrine dish on. After that I put the terrine in the oven, without the bain-marie, and with the lid off for another 35 minutes. We’ve proven that the result is the same, equally amazingly good.
Step 6: Take the terrine out of the oven and put the presse on it until it cools down. Once it has cooled down, put keep the terrine in the fridge and let it mature for 3 days.
Please note that when the terrine is still hot, it usually looks scarily floating in a liquid. Part of this liquid is liquified fat, which you can choose to pick off and not eat if you want later. Another part is proteins that will turn into gelatine once the terrine is cold. I’m just saying this because when the terrine is hot and floating around in the liquid, it can look like the recipe went a bit wrong or something. However it hasn’t. Another thing is that if you want to check on your terrine everyday during the 3 days of waiting, you’ll find that first it has a nasty strong livery smell, which will diminish as the days go by, and then on the 3rd day it will magically smell like a delicious terrine in the liqueur you chose.
Step 7: After 3 days, you can finally enjoy eating it. It should be ideally served with some bread or toast and with pickles. Enjoy with a chilled dry white wine, or even a light red wine.