By Cinda Chavich
Think of a terrine as a meatloaf dressed up for a party. Moulded and baked terrines — or potted rillettes and pâtés — are the perfect appetizers to make ahead and have on hand for impromptu holiday guests. And once you understand the technique of constructing a basic terrine, the possibilities are endless.
Whether it’s a rustic country terrine wrapped in pancetta, a rosy smoked salmon terrine, a mushroom-studded chicken terrine or a fancy pâté en croute, a terrine can be a combination of modest ingredients, or an elaborate loaf, beautifully layered, to slice and present as a first course for a holiday buffet or a casual lunch.
A silky chicken liver mousse makes a succulent spread, and your own terrine maison adds instant cachet to a simple cheese and charcuterie board.
It takes a little time and planning to make a traditional terrine or pâté, but it’s easy to do and our local artisan butchers offer unlimited inspiration.
Terrines around town
Terrines and pâtés have long been creative outlets for chefs and butchers — a way to upcycle trim, liver and other offal into a product that is more than the sum of its humble parts. Chef Paul van Trigt creates the charcuterie for Agrius and Fol Epi, including the salami for their takeout pizzas and cured meats for their housemade charcuterie boards. He calls the terrine “the Cinderella of meatloaf.”
“Terrines are my favourite,” says van Trigt, whose specialty is pâté en croute, artistic meaty compositions encased in pastry. “It’s really fun to play with all of the different textures and fancy inlays.”
You can pick up a slice of his latest creation from the deli/bakery counter at Fol Epi on Yates or follow his @pvtcharcuterie account for a parade of elaborate examples to inspire your own terrine making, from pork and pancetta studded with figs to chicken and preserved lemon crowned with herbs or rabbit and walnut terrine wrapped in bacon. There’s always a new terrine to try.
“I want people to know that pâtés and terrines are not just for a party — people can just grab a piece and have it for lunch,” he says. They are also classic nose-to-tail creations, using leftovers and off-cuts to eliminate waste, which is why so many of the city’s whole-animal butchers have turned to terrines.
Kelli Tebo is the chef behind the artful terrines at Haus Sausage Co., an old-world-style butcher shop specializing in humanely raised heritage meats. Tebo says she started her experiments with simple country terrines and now regularly creates beautiful pâté en croute, like her maple bacon terrine with whole hard-cooked egg to slice for breakfast, or a recent ramen-inspired terrine made with BBQ pork char siu.
“These pâté en croute are just a canvas for whatever I have to work with every week,” says Tebo, whose terrines are sold by the slice at the Haus Sausage Co. shop and included on their charcuterie boards. Though she’s often inspired by Instagram photos of elaborate layered terrines, Tebo says experience has taught her to keep things simple, with just two or three elements and classic spicing.
“We have a good sausage program here, and I get nice pork grinds, foie gras, offal from lamb and pigs, duck and game meats,” she says. “I like to blend whatever livers we have with milk and add a small portion to the pork to give it an airy texture — adding some foie parfait into a chicken terrine binds it really well.”
That’s the formula for a classic French terrine forcemeat mixture, says Cory Pelan, the chef/owner of The Whole Beast, where you’ll find pork brawn, duck pâté and a rotating terrine of the week. “For me, a terrine is always liver based,” says Pelan, who uses pork, chicken and turkey livers for terrines and pâtés, including his popular chicken liver parfait.
“That’s the tradition and reason behind making terrines, using up things like liver, bacon and pork trim in the restaurant kitchen or butcher shop,” he says. “But it’s also important for authentic flavour.” Trucs of the trade I asked some of our local pâté makers for their advice and learned a few important trucs from the charcuterie trade.
The words “terrine” and “pâté” are often used interchangeably. But strictly speaking, pâté is the ground forcemeat or farce, sometimes wrapped in pastry (en croute), baked in a loaf or puréed with additional fat for spreadable consistency. The terrine is the vessel in which the pâté is baked, usually a long and narrow loaf pan made of heavy enamelled cast iron or crockery. Even a vintage Pyrex loaf pan makes a great terrine mould.
For a complex pâté en croute, a special hinged baking tin (that opens easily) is important. Moulds are usually lined with something that will encase the terrine once it’s unmoulded — if not pastry, then thin pieces of bacon or pancetta, prosciutto or even lightly blanched chard leaves, draped over the bottom and sides and folded over the top to cover the finished terrine on all sides.
Lining the mould with plastic wrap first makes unmoulding easier. You don’t want the meat to brown, so baking a terrine must be low and slow, in a water bath or bain-marie. “You want it to cook slowly and evenly, at 200°F or 250°F,” says Pelan. “It can take a couple of hours. If you cook it too hot or too fast, the liver in the farce will get grainy.”
That farce, or forcemeat — the raw, ground mixture that’s the base of any terrine — can be a coarse or smooth grind, but fat is an important component. Fattier meats (pork belly and shoulder or chicken thighs) work best, with some liver or other binding agent, like a panade of bread and milk. A touch of curing salt helps to maintain a rosy colour.
“You want the mixture to be homogenized and consistent,” says Tebo, who says the ideal ratio is 70 per cent meat and 30 per cent fat for most terrines. Van Trigt recommends salting ground meats the night before mixing up the forcemeat in a stand mixer, to make a stickier emulsion. Pelan uses a high-powered Vitamix blender, and lots of butter, for his silky chicken liver parfait.
Any larger pieces of meat that are layered into the terrine should be precooked, whether smoked ham or duck confit. Other additions, including nuts, dried fruit, caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms, should be cut small, about a finger-nail-sized cube at most, says Pelan.
Once the terrine is baked, it should be compressed under a weight and chilled overnight. Potted pâtés, on the other hand, should be sealed with a layer of pork or duck fat, or clarified butter. Cut terrines can oxidize and brown quickly, so it’s best to vacuum pack your terrine, whole or by the slice. A terrine will keep for a week in the refrigerator or longer if frozen.
Country terrines are easy to master but learning to make a perfect pâté en croute takes practice, says van Trigt. “The Instagram photos don’t show the crust bursting open or getting a leak, and the crumbly pâtés,” he says. “I’m still doing lots of reading and trying new things.”
The stylish charcuterie
Terrines and pâtés offer endlessly versatile options for the appetizer course. For vegetarians, there are roasted vegetable terrines, layered with herbs and cream cheese, or buttery sautéed mushroom pâtés. There are many ways to serve terrines — sliced as a first course, cubed as an appetizer, presented on a charcuterie board, even in a BLT slider or Vietnamese banh mi. So, try a terrine from a local butcher or create your own pâté maison — a beautiful meatloaf, with stylish French flair!
Country Pork and Turkey Terrine
This is a simple, rustic terrine, perfect to serve cold with salad, bread, pickled beets and gherkins for a lunch or first course, or to slice for the charcuterie board. Note that you will need a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan or two 8 x 3-inch terrine moulds for this recipe.
• 1 pound double-smoked bacon, thinly sliced (or 1/2 pound bacon and 1/2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto)
• 1 large onion, quartered
• 3 cloves garlic
• 1/4 cup brandy or sherry
• 1/4 cup minced Italian parsley
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon peppercorns, coarsely cracked
• 1 pound ground pork
• 1 pound ground turkey
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• 3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped, or shelled pistachios, halved
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Set aside eight strips of bacon. Chop the remaining bacon, then place it in the food processor with the onion, garlic and brandy. Process until fairly smooth. Mix in herbs, salt and peppercorns. (Alternatively, process the half pound of chopped bacon with onion, garlic and brandy, and use the sliced prosciutto to line the mould.)
In a bowl, combine the ground pork and turkey with the egg and mix with your hands until well combined. Stir in the bacon/onion purée and the nuts.
Line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan or two 8 x 3-inch terrine moulds with reserved bacon strips (or sliced prosciutto), letting the ends hang over the edges of the pan. Pack the meat mixture into the pan, pressing firmly and mounding slightly, then fold the bacon ends over the top.
Cut a piece of parchment to fit on top, then cover the pan tightly with foil and place in a roasting pan, filled with 2 inches of hot water.
Bake in the preheated oven for 2 hours, or until the terrine tests 160°F at the centre, using an instant read thermometer. Remove from the oven, cool slightly and drain excess fat into a measuring cup.
The terrine should be compressed at this point, so place another similar-sized pan on top of the pâté (or cut a piece of cardboard the same size of the pan, wrap in foil, and place on top), then top with a heavy can or other weight and refrigerate overnight.
The terrine is best if chilled for 2 days before serving. The terrine will keep up to five days in the refrigerator and may be frozen. Serves 8 to 10.
This spreadable vegetarian pâté features a mixture of wild and cultivated mushrooms. For a gluten-free option, replace the breadcrumbs with toasted ground walnuts or cashews.
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 cups minced onions
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 pound mixed mushrooms (portobello, shiitake, oyster, white and/or brown)
• 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
• 1/2 cup white wine
• 3 fresh bay leaves
• 1 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1/2 cup butter
• 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce (or other hot sauce) or to taste
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• generous pinch freshly ground nutmeg
• 2 tablespoons brandy
• 1 tablespoon organic baking powder
• salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the minced onions and garlic for 10 minutes until softened and just starting to brown.
Chop the mushrooms into large chunks and place in a food processor, pulsing until finely chopped. (If using portobellos, use a teaspoon to scrape out most of the dark gills first.)
Add mushrooms to the sautéed onions and cook together over low heat for 15 minutes. Combine the breadcrumbs and wine.
Add the breadcrumb mixture, bay leaves, thyme and butter to the mushrooms and stir to combine well. Continue to cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture is quite dry.
Remove from heat, mix in the sriracha, soy sauce, nutmeg, brandy and baking powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon mushroom pâté into individual small jars or bowls, cover and refrigerate or freeze for storage. To serve, spread on crackers or a baguette. Makes about 3 cups.
Salmon and White Fish Terrine with Chard
This is a pretty pink terrine — layers of delicate white fish mousse and salmon, encased in greens. I made it with wild ling cod, sockeye salmon and chard leaves, but you could also use halibut in the mousse and large spinach or lettuce leaves to enclose the mousse. Note that you will need a small loaf pan or terrine mould for this dish.
• 1 pound white fish fillet (cod, halibut, etc.)
• 1/2 cup cream
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 egg whites
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 tablespoon brandy
• 10 large chard leaves, stiff ribs removed
• 1 pound sockeye salmon fillet (skin on, if possible)
• salt and pepper
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 3 tablespoons white wine
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Make the mousse: In a food processor, combine the white fish, cream, salt, egg whites, egg yolk and brandy. Whirl until puréed. Set aside.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, remove from heat and stir in the greens to blanch. Immediately lift out of the water with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well. Set aside.
Using a sharp knife, thinly slice the salmon fillet at an angle, removing the slices from the skin as you go. Set aside.
Butter a small loaf pan or mould and line the bottom and sides with 2/3 of the blanched greens.
Take half of the sliced salmon and overlap in the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the fish mousse over top, then top with the remaining sliced salmon, and season again with salt and pepper.
Fold the blanched greens over top, then top with the remaining leaves. Dot with bits of butter, drizzle with wine, then cover the pan with foil, sealing the edges.
Place terrine in a larger pan and fill the pan with hot water, coming about halfway up the sides of the terrine.
Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until set. Remove from the pan, cool on a rack, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before unmoulding and slicing the terrine.
This spreadable pork pâté is easy to make — all you need is a highly marbled cut of pork (such as pork belly or pork shoulder with extra fat), and time.
• 2 pounds fatty pork belly or shoulder (about 30% to 40% fat)
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 4 shallots, chopped
• 3 large cloves garlic, minced
• bouquet garni: 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 4 sage leaves, 2 bay leaves, 1 sprig rosemary, tied with a string
• 6 whole peppercorns
• 4 allspice berries
• clarified butter for sealing (optional)
Preheat oven to 275°F.
Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes and place in a heavy ovenproof pan. Add salt and mix well.
Mix in the chopped shallots and garlic. Set aside for 15 minutes.
Add the bouquet garni, peppercorns and allspice. Pour in enough cold water to barely cover the meat.
On the stovetop, bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Cover the pan (with a lid or foil) and place in the oven to braise for 3 to 4 hours, removing the lid after about 2 hours.
Return the pan to the stovetop and simmer over medium low heat until most of the liquid has evaporated. Discard herbs.
Using a fork or potato masher, mash the meat to form a chunky purée. Pack it into small canning jars, pressing down so that the liquid/fat rises to the top. If needed, pour in enough clarified butter to seal rillettes under a layer of fat.
Chill for up to 2 weeks or freeze. Bring to room temperature before serving with toasts or crackers.
Makes about 2 cups.