Terrine is one of those words that can have two meanings. It can mean a particular food preparation, or it can mean the physical dish, often made from earthenware, in which the preparation is prepared. Terrines are often rectangular, but they can also be oval or round. Confused?
Sometimes the terrine is removed from the terrine for slicing and serving, but sometimes the terrine is simply spooned out of the terrine. The contents of a terrine may be a pâté, but pâtés are not always made in a terrine. A modern chef may serve you a slice of something and call it a terrine, but never use a terrine at any time in its preparation. Still confused?
Terrines have been around for a long time, but recipes with “terrine” in the name seem to be less than a hundred years old. More confused?
Being confused about terrines is natural. And there’s probably nothing I can write that will make the subject any less confusing. I think of terrines as two separate concepts: a cold preparation put together in advance of serving or a type of container. The first concept may be prepared in the second, but that isn’t a firm requirement.
For this article, I have pulled together three very different recipes that are all called terrines and that are all prepared in terrines. The first two recipes are suitable as entrées or first courses. Terrine de foies de volaille is a terrine prepared primarily from chicken livers. Terrine de légumes printaniers is a terrine that is assembled from a variety of vegetables. Terrine de fruits en gelée consists of poached fruit suspended in wine-flavored gelatin and is suitable as a light dessert course.
The three recipes contained in this article are all designed for a 450-gram terrine. The size is a function of the amount of material that will fit in the dish, for example 450 grams of pâté. This is approximately equivalent to 450 milliliters of water. You can determine how much water will fit in the terrine you are using and then accordingly adjust the recipe. Since none of the recipes are served in the terrine, they can all be prepared in a different rectangular container, such as a loaf pan. But only the terrine de foies de volaille can be prepared in a non-rectangular terrine.
Terrines are great make-ahead dishes that always look like more work than they really require. For me, they are more play than work.
©2005 Peter Hertzmann, Inc. All rights reserved.