So for this month’s pâté and terrine project, I vacillated back and forth between a few ideas and then decided to make all of them. I had invited over a bunch of food writer/blogger types, so I figured quantity and variety would both be desirable. I emailed Northwind Farm and placed an order for a duck, a rabbit, and a pork butt, and picked them up at the weekly market here in town. Over the course of a couple of days, I turned the three things into three different pâtés, using a couple of tricks I’ve learned in my couple of years of terrine making, and which really do improve the results dramatically.
First, I took apart the rabbit, jointing it and cutting as much meat off the skeleton as I could. I could have done a more thorough job, but I knew I wanted to make rabbit stock so I didn’t sweat the meat I left behind. The rabbit also came with all its offal stuffed back inside, which was most welcome.
I ground all the organs along with the meat, adding in about a third as much pork fat since rabbit is about as lean as meat gets. To this mixture I added salt, pepper, and a generous sprinkling of the dried spruce tips. After a quenelle test, it needed more salt and spruce, and some acid; I added some of the cider/spruce vinegar that’s not fully fermented but still pretty damn good.
The duck met a fate very similar to the rabbit: jointed, de-meated, and ground up with its offal (though I saved the neck for stock) and a bit of pork fat because it doesn’t liquify quite as easily as duck fat when cooking. I added several stalks of rhubarb that I had cooked sous vide with maple syrup and blackcurrant vinegar back in the spring, and which defrosted during the post-Irene power failure so it needed using up. This combination actually arose when we took a duck leg and this bag of rhubarb to Vermont with us, and I needed to stretch it to feed five people, so I made confit with the leg and then shredded it up with some of the rhubarb and scallions and garlic and make it into wontons that I poached gently in some chicken-grilled lamb stock.
Duck and rhubarb go very very well together, as I learned back in rhubarb season, and these wontons were badass. I wanted to the terrine to have that same spark of bright acidity cutting through the rich, fatty duck. Speaking of the neck, the bird had the full neck skin still on the carcass, so for the taste test I actually stuffed the mixture into the neck skin tube and cooked it for lunch. I adjusted salt and pepper, and added more of the vinegar to balance the acidity and that was the duck.
The pork shoulder got a more complex seasoning which included many components that were alas not micro-local like the spruce and rhubarb. But it ended up tasting really good. After grinding meat and fat, I added Korean pepper powder, kimchi brine, gochujang, lots of grated ginger and garlic, and minced shiso leaves. Another quenelle test, another adjustment–this time of spiciness–and the addition of some fish sauce, shochu, and rice vinegar, and it too was done.
After I had the mixes right, I made a panade with panko and a couple of egg yolks, beating it until smooth. I folded this into all three. I use yolks in cases like this, and for gnocchi, because they bind without imparting the stiffness that whites bring to the party. The result, especially when cooked sous vide, is soft and spreadable instead of crumbly and rubbery. I packed the three meat mixtures into these little loaf pans I bought for just such a purpose and vacuum-sealed them all. This compacts the meat nicely, and the vacuum acts like a weight after cooking, holding the terrine nice and tight so there’s no need to mess around with tomato cans or bricks and cardboard and foil and such overnight.
The main reason to cook terrines sous vide is that they never rise above the 150˚F/65.5˚C that I set the circulator at. As a result, rather than messing around with a bain-Marie in a hot oven, you slide the bagged pans into the bath and forget about them for six hours. The meat cooks until meltingly tender, and little of the fat melts and breaks out. The results are creamy and spreadable, with none of the grainy or fibrous textures that can occur in oven-baked pâtés. Seriously, the difference is night and day. Try it, especially using only yolks in your panade: it’s a creamy, sensual delight.
To accompany this trio of treats, I baked a sourdough boule and pulled out the most recent camembert and a variety of pickles: dill, cornichons, kimchi, and wild garlic. So the appetizer spread was 100 percent homemade (except for the mustard) and pretty damn tasty.
Among our guests were Eve, who sadly had to leave early, Kim, who you all know as the co-genius behind this delicious internet carnage meme, and Jonathan, who wrote Beaten, Seared and Sauced, which I mentioned in my book roundup article back in August. The kids got along famously, and the big people mostly talked shit about all the bloggers who didn’t come even though they were totally invited.
For the main meal, I smoked a couple of chickens, made pesto polenta, broke out some of the smoky hot sauce, and made a vinaigrette for the salad greens that Kim brought. I also made two tarts: pear and peach, both with a maple-crabapple glaze. We ate just about everything that wasn’t nailed down.
The best thing about making these in quantity was the leftovers. The Kid clamored for pâté sandwiches in his lunch on Monday, making sure I knew he wanted one rabbit and one pork but no duck. (Kim’s kids, amusingly, loved the duck but not the other two). And there’s nothing I like more for lunch than a salad and some creamy pâté on toast. And there’s still a whole other pork terrine in the fridge, just waiting to be unwrapped.