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The basic terrine

Terrines, the shortened name of a dish known classically as pâté en terrine, are traditionally understood to be forcemeat mixtures baked in an earthenware mold with a tight-fitting lid. This preparation gets its name from its association with the material used to make the mold, once exclusively earthenware of unglazed clay or terra cotta.

Today, terrine molds are produced from materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, ceramic, enameled cast iron, ovenproof plastic or glazed earthenware. These materials are more durable and more sanitary than the unglazed earthenware once favored by charcutières. Terrine molds also come in any number of shapes, including triangle, half-circle and trapezoid. These materials and shapes offer the garde manger chef an effective way to impress the guest.

  1. Prepare the terrine mold by lining it. Terrine molds were traditionally lined with fatback, then filled with a forcemeat and any garnish called for by the recipe. This liner, also referred to as a chemise or jacket, is still used today, but fatback may be replaced with prosciutto, bacon, caul fat, crêpes, leeks, spinach or even seaweed. A liner is not always required, and may be replaced with plastic wrap; this makes it easy to remove the terrine neatly from the mold.
  2. Fill the prepared mold with forcemeat and any garnish required. Use a spatula to work the forcemeat into all corners and remove any air pockets. Then the liner is folded over the forcemeat to completely encase it, and a lid or foil covers the terrine. Firmly tap the assembled terrine on the countertop to further eliminate air pockets.
  3. Cook the terrine gently in a water bath (bain-marie). Terrines must be properly cooked at a carefully regulated temperature. A water bath can insulate the terrine from temperature extremes. Set the filled, covered terrine mold in a baking pan on a clean side towel or several layers of paper towels, if desired. Add enough simmering water to come about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way up the mold’s sides. Monitor the water bath’s temperature; it should be at a constant 170°F/77°C. An oven temperature of approximately 300°F/149°C should keep the water bath’s temperature where it belongs, but if necessary, adjust the oven temperature.
  4. Cook to the correct internal temperature. Check for doneness by measuring the terrine’s internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Remember to allow for carryover cooking when deciding whether the terrine is ready. The amount of carryover cooking will vary, depending upon the material used to make the mold, the forcemeat and the overall shape and size of the mold.
  5. Cool, press and store the terrine until ready to serve. Remove the fully cooked terrine from the water bath and allow it to rest at room temperature until the internal temperature drops to 90°F/32°C. Set a press plate on the terrine. You can create a press plate by cutting Styrofoam, Plexiglas or wood to the inside dimensions of the mold. Wrap the press plate in plastic wrap or foil to lengthen its useful life. Place a 2-pound/907-gram mold on top of the press plate. Set this assembly in a hotel pan and refrigerate the terrine for at least two to three days to mellow and mature the flavor. If desired, coat the terrine with melted aspic.

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