Yes folks, that is correct. I served a game terrine, and a slow roasted pork shoulder to a group of vegetarians. But wait.. this is more than my rather sick, twisted sense of humor (come on.. it is kinda funny).
I wanted to test run a few recipes for a party I am throwing in the new year. The problem is that I really needed a large group of people to do this for, since the party is for a decent sized group of people.
“Well”, I thought… “we are having our parenting (PEPs) group over for some Halloween fun, I could hijack that in the name of food testing”. And so my evil scheme was underway.
I order the pork shoulder. All 10lbs of it. Where from? Where else of course.. Sea Breeze Farm! With a bit of notice they were able to do a custom order for me – a 10lb Boston but, skin and fat still on.
So, I count up the number of people coming, and reckon it will work out OK. The terrine and the pork shoulder, with some bread, and a few other things – perfect. I decide I should really send out an email asking if anyone has any dietary requirements… I seemed to remember one of the parents being vegetarian.
Turns out… drum roll… just over half of them are vegetarian. Wonderful. Don’t get me wrong, I love vegetarians, I can just never eat a whole one.
But seriously.. nothing wrong with going veg.. heck, most people should be eating more veg. But… this was a trial run for a meat party. Being vegetarian is going to leave you a touch hungry.
So, there we have it.. the story behind me feeding a home made game pate, and a slow roasted pork shoulder to a group of vegetarians.
I decided I should really cook something for the veggers, but don’t have a lot of experience cooking for them. Who else to turn to but Heidi Swason? I have her wonderful “Super Natural Cooking” book, and knew that she wouldn’t let me down. Her “Thousand Layer Lasagne” looked like it would fit the bill, and wasn’t complicated or time consuming to make. It turned out bloody perfect – thanks Heidi!
Anyhow.. back to the meat.
So, I have been thinking a lot more recently about French country food. No Haute Cuisine, nothing glam and special. Just simple, clean, well executed recipes that are can be both comforting and extremely presentable at the same time. That, and of course my complete love of Bistro food… which, facing it, isn’t a million miles away from the fabulous tastes of the French Provences.
My mind has gone to game. What to do with rabbits, duck, partridge, hare (like I can find those in the US..). I am actually on a quest to find a decent place to go hunt a few myself. I have had a fascination recently with wanting to do the whole shebang myself – from catching, to killing, to skinning to gutting, and finally to cooking. It seems far to easy these days to become detracted from the real source of meat – a living animal. Supermarkets and even farmers markets make it so easy to stay completely removed from the fact that you are eating another animal, that was living and breathing.
This isn’t some silly macho white hunter bullshit, that isn’t me.. I just want to get back to roots. I think this helps you understand your food a lot better, and that is important.
So.. the Terrine.
This was, by far, the best pate I have ever made. How can I say it with such certainty you ask? Well, it is actually the only pate I have ever made!
Yes, I have eaten my fair share.. in fact, well beyond my fair share. Everything from super smooth liver pate, to something like this – a rustic, coarse terrine, wrapped in bacon. Wait, did I just say the B word?? YES, now I have your attention.
I am more of a rustic, coarse terrine than a smooth rich pate kinda guy. When looking around at some recipes and ideas, two books really give a ton of information on making terrines – French Provincial Cooking, by Elizabeth David, and Hugh Fernley Wittingshall’s books. Michael Rulhman’s Charcuterie book is also a good source of information.
The terrine I made is using a combination of techniques from both books, but my own choice of game, and herbs and spices to accompany them.
What resulted was actually an excellent terrine of pork belly, duck, pork back fat and rabbit – with really great textural variations, and a gamy, but not too gamy taste. Perhaps this is an almost perfect terrine to get you into both game, and pate… it doesn’t have the texture of pureed meat (something someone told me pate tasted like once.. doh), nor does it taste really strongly of game.
My suggestion, as always, is to try and find the best possible ingredients to work with. I got the pork from Sea Breeze, where the pigs are free roaming, which makes a huge difference in taste and texture. The game, whilst not wild, was sustainable and properly raised.
Some notes on this terrine:
You could make this with pretty much any game you choose. Rabbit and duck are good choices for a game pate for those that might not be into game that much, since they are relatively mild. Pheasant would yield a gamier pate I think.
Juniper berries can be found in the spice department of most decent grocery stores.
The pork back fat gives the lovely little white cubes you can see throughout the pate, and helps keep the pate moist.
While traditionally a terrine dish is used to make pate, you can easily make do with a loaf pan. A loaf pan that is 9” long, 5” wide, and 3” deep would work great.. That is what I used for this.. I am sans terrine dish (but that will be the next thing I buy.. I rather enjoyed making this pate.
Game Terrine (serves a lot)
1lb pork belly, ground
2oz pork back fat – cut into dice
1 rabbit, ready for roasting (or just the saddle)
Liver from the rabbit or duck – finely chopped
1 whole duck
8 juniper berries
a few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1 tablespoon of finely ground sea salt
5 black peppercorns
15 rashers of bacon
Splash of red wine
Splash of brandy, or apple brandy
a few bay leaves (optional)
Preheat your oven to 375F
Put the duck in a roasting pan. Put the rabbit (or rabbit pieces) in another roasting pan. Roast both for about 30 minutes. This pre-roasting makes it much easier to take the meat of the carcass of the duck and rabbit. If you are using rabbit pieces, roast them for about 20 minutes.
Remove the skin from the roasted duck, once cooled slightly, along with the layer of fat under it. Use a sharp knife and remove both breasts. Remove any meat that is left on the carcass, if isn’t too fatty.
Remove all the desirable looking meat from the rabbit – making sure not to get any tendon or fat. Finely chop the rabbit meat.
In a large bowl, mix together the ground pork belly, the diced back fat, the chopped liver and the rabbit meat. Grind the salt, peppercorns and juniper berries together in a pestle and mortar. Add this and the chopped thyme to the meat mix. Add the splash of red wine and brandy to the mix also. Using your hands, gently but thoroughly mix all this together.
If you wish, you can roast the bones of the duck for longer – maybe another 20 minutes, then make a quick stock from it and a few vegetables (onion, carrot, celery, leek). Reduce this stock down by half, and then add this to the mix also. This will make the pate a lot more game forward.
Cut the larger pieces of duck meat (breasts mainly) into slices about a fingers width. Add some oil to a hot saute pan, and fry these until golden brown.
Lay a rasher of bacon on a chopping board. Run the back of a chef’s knife over the bacon to stretch it out. Repeat for all of the slices of bacon.
Lay this bacon over the inside of the terrine dish. Make sure to overlap each slice slightly. You are wanting to cover most of dish this way. Leave the ends hanging over the edge of the dish.
Put a layer of the ground meat mix in the bottom of the dish, gently pushing it into place – making sure there are no gaps. Try not to push the bacon around too much when doing this. Put a scattering layer of the duck meat pieces over this. Now another layer of the meat mix. And another of the duck, and then finally a top layer of the meat mix.
Fold and stretch the bacon ends over the top of the dish. Add more bacon rashers to the top if needed to completely cover the pate in a layer of bacon (if your rashers don’t stretch over quite enough). Put a few bay leaves on top, and seal top tightly with some tin foil.
Fill a larger baking dish with water, and stand this terrine dish in that. Carefully place this in a 350F oven for 1.5 to 2 hours. You know it is done when the meat is pulling away from the sides of the dish, and when you stick a skewer into the center of the pate, it comes out really hot. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on a rack.
Now for an important step for good texture.. When the fat surrounding the pate is starting to set a little, cover the top with greaseproof paper. Find a board, or lid that fits snugly into the dish (so it will sit on the top of the pate, not on the dish rim). Press the board down onto the pate, and put a heavy weight – a few cans, or a brick on top as it cools.
Allow to cool for a few hours, or overnight – and then bung it in the fridge.
To serve – cut into slices, and serve with crusty bread, and some pickled vegetables.
But wait.. “what is this about the pork shoulder you mentioned in the post title??” you ask.. I will save that for another post.. But think.. a fatty pork cut, with crackling skin, roasted for 12 hours… it would be hard to screw that one up!
OK.. after all this meat, I really need to cook some seafood.