22 November 2012

Terrine de canard : baking & pressing

Julia Child used to say that you should never apologize for your cooking when you are serving dinner to guests, even if the dishes didn't end up resembling what you had intended. I might say the same thing about blogs: never apologize. At the same time, I'll say that I'm sorry that I can't finish the terrine series today.

This is the terrine I cooked the duck pâté in. I've had it for so long —
25 or 30 years — that I don't remember where I got it.

Why? Because I'm not yet ready to slice the terrine de canard up for serving. That won't happen for another few hours. It will be part of our afternoon Thanksgiving Dinner later today, which will be a very meaty one: with the terrine as a first course, we'll move on to a boned gigot d'agneau that we bought from the butcher-who-delivers. More about all that tomorrow too.

The last step before baking is to pour over the top of the meat mixture
the half-cup of the wine in which the dried mushrooms soaked.

Where's our Thanksgiving turkey? What will we tell our American friends who are coming for dinner? Well, as I've said, I put ground turkey into the terrine mixture. The terrine, by the way, cooks in a water bath, called a bain-marie in French, in a medium oven for just over two hours. I checked mine at that point with an instant-read thermometer and it was up to 75ºC (nearly 170ºF) in the center.

The brick we used to press the pâté fit our terrine just about perfectly. If you don't
have a brick, you can use two heavy cans of beans or tomatoes or whatever.

When the terrine comes out of the oven and has cooled down slightly, it needs to be pressed. In other words, you cover it and put a heavy weight on top of it. We cut two pieces of cardboard into oval shapes to match the size of the baking dish and put them inside a plastic bag. That got laid on top of the cooked meat mixture as a lid, and on top of it we put a brick that was also inside a plastic bag.

Then we put the cooked terrine into the refrigerator to be pressed down by the weight of the brick for 24 hours. And it stays in the fridge for another 48 hours after that, before you're ready to slice and serve it.

So there you have it — except for the pictures of the finished product that I plan to take later this morning. Here is the recipe in English:

Terrine de canard forestière

2 boneless duck breast filets (about one pound in all)
2 duck livers (or 3 chicken or rabbit livers)
10 oz. ground turkey (or veal)
10 oz. lean ground pork
1 tsp. corn or potato starch
3 whole eggs
1 tsp. allspice
salt and pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 oz. shelled pistachios
1 oz. dried boletus and/or shiitake mushrooms
½ cup white wine
4 thin slices fatback or blanched bacon
2 peeled shallots (or small onions)
3 bay leaves

Day 1: Take the skin off the duck breast filets and save them in the refrigerator. Cut one of the breast filets into small cubes and cut the other one into strips between ¼ and ½ inches wide. Season the meat and put it in the refrigerator.

Put the dried mushrooms to soak in the white wine. De-vein the livers and chop them (or put them through the meat grinder).

Put the ground turkey and the ground pork into a big bowl. Add the livers, allspice, salt, pepper, starch, eggs, and thyme. Add the cubed duck liver and the shelled pistachios. Place the strips of duck breast meat over the top. Cover the bowl and put it in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours (overnight).

Day 2: Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Lift the rehydrated mushrooms out of the white wine and chop them finely. Strain the wine through a fine sieve or a paper coffee filter to remove any sand or grit.

Line the bottom and sides of a 2 qt. (2 liter) baking dish with the duck skin and/or thin strips of fatback/bacon. Take the duck breast strips off the top of the mixture and reserve them. Then put  half of the ground meat mixture into the bottom of the baking dish.

Arrange the strips of duck breast on top of the first layer of ground meat mixture. Top them with the rest of the ground meat mixture.

On the top of the meat mixture as decoration and for flavor, place two or three shallots (or onions) cut into slices and two or three bay leaves. Strain the half cup of mushroom soaking wine over the top of the meat mixture. Put the lid on the baking dish or cover it with foil and bake it in a water bath in the oven for two hours and fifteen minutes.

Remove the terrine from the oven and let it cool down slightly. Take the lid off the dish, cover it with a piece of thick cardboard (or wood) that is cut to fit inside the dish and put inside a waterproof plastic bag. Weight that cover down with a brick or a couple of big, heavy cans of vegetables. When the terrine has completely cooled, put it in the refrigerator for 24 hours with the weight still on it.

Day 3: Take the weight off the terrine, put the lid back on the dish, and leave it in the refrigerator for 48 hours longer before you slice and serve it so that all the flavors can develop and blend together.

Serve slices of  the terrine, cold, with an onion chutney and/or pickled gherkins, toasted bread, and a demi-sec or sweet white wine (Vouvray, Monbazillac, Sauternes) or other wine of your choice.

This is Part 4 of the Terrine de canard series. Here are links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 5.


  1. Thanks for a wonderful... myth exploding series of articles on terrines... I've done quite a few terrines and patés, but never been adventurous like this.

    My parents had a terrine like yours through their antique shop many years back... it had a well scrubbed oval of beech [hetre] with it and a matching cast iron slab of about 2lbs.
    I wasn't that far into cooking for myself at that point... and had just discovered Chinese and Indian food... but now I wish I'd nabbed it off the shelf for a 'donation'.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving to you all American readers.

  3. Happy Thanksgiving & happy eating! Gobble gobble

  4. This terrine tutorial has been
    very interesting...looking
    forward to the final installment.

    By the way, I think yesterday
    was the 100th anniversary of
    Julia's birthday. I'm in the
    middle of Bob Spitz's bio of
    her, "Dearie." Reccommend it.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Thanks for the terrine series. I grew up in the US but my mother is French. Growing up she used to have my sister and me help her to make terrines and up until now I've never seen anyone else go through all the steps we did to make one. I'll never forget one particular day I had my girlfriend over and my mother set two ducks on the table in front of us and told us to start deboning them. When my girlfriend's mother came over to pick her up the look of horror on her face was priceless as she saw her daughter up to her elbows in duck grease, bones and pieces of deconstructed duck. Needless to say they never tried the terrine! Happy Thanksgiving, and yes, we're having a terrine this year too, it's tradition.


  7. Thanks, chm! Happy Thanksgiving to all! May the chili powder stay out of your apple pie! (I almost put it in mine, instead of cinnamon, yesterday--yikes!).

    Ken, this has been really interesting, and I can't wait to see the final results. I hope you've fully enjoyed your dinner at this point today-- it's about 3 in the afternoon.

    Sheila, I think that Julia's birthday was August 15. Thanks for the info on this other bio on her!


  8. I believe that I have posted this before but I saw it again on another blog and I will repost since it is very funny:

  9. Happy Thanksgiving!
    Thanks for the terrine tutorial--it is something I've never tried [but might give a go now...]
    Simple escalope de dinde with mushrooms tonight. I was going to make pumpkin pie but ran out of time--teaching schedule was just too hectic!

  10. The average American consumes 3,000-4,500 calories in food and drink on Turkey Day.
    Don't disappoint us. You guys can do this.
    Living abroad is no excuse for moderation on this special day.

  11. This must be a fantastic dish. Why else would anyone spend so much time and effort making it?

  12. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Walt from balmy 'Bama!

  13. Happy Thanksgiving to you both.
    I also have a terrine brick.
    I have a rectangular Le Creuset terrine. My housebrick wrapped in foil is a perfect fit when placed on its side.
    I would love to make the terrine with duck, but it's so dear here I like to keep duck breast to eat on its own!
    Your meal sounds delicious. I'm sure you will enjoy!

  14. Tim, such terrines are readily available here in France. They go from the inexpensive to the très cher. Have you ever been to the brocante/dépôt-vente on the main road in Azay-sur-Cher? I've found some good terrines there for not much money.

    Anton, thanks for that interesting comment.

    Sue, hope you and Leon are doing well. Too bad duck is so expensive down there. Of course there are other terrines and pâtés you can make. I wonder how a turkey terrine would be and may have to make one soon.

    Thanks to all of you for the comments.


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