I try to keep an open mind about all food but I really don’t like meatloaf. But I really like terrines. Aren’t these essentially the same combination of ground meats, spices, and filler cooked to well-done and served sliced? Is my taste difference a matter of cultural perception–surely the creations of Larousse and Brillat-Savarin should be better than the collaborations of the Campbell’s Soup Company and the 1950s American housewife, right?
As a start I think the problem is that when Americans get their hands on a traditional preparation the serving size tends to balloon. The meatloaf/terrine divide is the perfect example: The French have a purpose-made smaller cooking vessel while Americans usually employ a loaf pan. The larger serving size and American tastes have combined to breed most of the fat out of meatloaf. (The more palatable recipes sneak some back in by covering the meatloaf in strips of bacon.) The use of lean ground meat leads to a dry meat that needs filler to hold in moisture and gravy to hide the dry, gray meat. Definitely not good.As far as recipes for terrines Stéphane Reynaud’s Terrine is the best resource I have come across. It is 161 pages of no-nonsense authentic response and mouth-watering photos of the food they produce. One of the most appetising meat terrines is the rabbit and nut terrine.
I have wanted to try cooking with rabbit for a long while but couldn’t find any on a recent grocery trip so substituted ground chicken and pork. A pale comparison, I know, but this more mainstream meat was reinforced by the ground chicken liver called for in the original.
The recipe calls for hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios and while these might be traditional ingredients to combine with rabbit I took the fact that no one nut is called for as license to ignore tradition and use whatever is at hand. The pistachios I wanted to keep because of their unique green colour, I happened to have some blanched almonds, and decided to substitute walnuts for the hazelnuts. Because walnut halves are bigger than the other two and they have a distinct, slightly-astringent taste I chopped them into large-ish pieces.
As well as nuts, Reynaud’s recipe also calls for dried sultanas re-hydrated in Armagnac. Here are two more golden opportunities to vary the recipe to suit your tastes and pantry. I subbed Calvados for the Armagnac and I’m sure that dried cherries (diced), apricots, or any other dried soft fruit could stand in for the raisins.
Sliced and served on toast this terrine looks delicious–the grayness of the well-done ground meat is dotted with green and gold. The nuts soften a bit when cooked but still provide a remarkable texture contrast and the sultanas burst with boozy sweetness. The acidic sharpness of grainy mustard and a pickled onion or two are the perfect foil to the terrine’s richness.
The balance and contrast from the three principal ingredients (meat, nuts, and ground fruit) make this an excellent cold snack. On our whirlwind tour of four Niagara wineries last weekend we road-tested this terrine and at least in my judgment the combination of meat and trail mix makes an ideal man snack.