Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey Meatloaf

One of the cool things about going to culinary school is the exposure to a great many cuisines and cooking techniques over a very short time frame.  You also get to play with really cool equipment such as a double-ring wok burner that puts out a few thousand BTU's and sounds like a fighter jet with afterburners on.  Unfortunately in the relatively short three-week course titled, Garde Manger, we went over subjects as varied as plated apps, cheese (the making of and use of), charcuterie and due to the amount of material being learned we only discussed things from the 50,000-foot level.  Essentially just enough to whet your appetite but not so much that you felt confident and ready to take on the world.

I've been able to get back into learning on my own and expanding my knowledge,  but one meaty foodstuff that I've been hankering to try again was terrines.  What you ask is a terrine?  Basically it's a fancy-schmancy meatloaf…in fact there are many parallels between to the stuff yo’ momma made on Sunday night and the fine frenchified versions.  You could call good ol' 'merican meatloaf the bastard step-child of French terrines but that would be rude and frankly libelous to mommas everywhere.  Ground meat?  check!  Eggs?  check!  Bread crumbs?  check!  Parsley?  check!  Where the two take different paths is how the ingredients are processed, cooked and treated ante-cooking.  Whereas the meatloaf is classically made from good ol' moo-cow, terrines are most regularly made with pork.  For glueification of the meats meatloaf has breadcrumbs from unknown or dubious sources, fresh bread that's been grated, Japanese panko, saltines, really just about any savory baked complex carbohydrate frowned upon by Dr. Atkins would work.  Mine regularly often came from a canister purchased at my local mega-grocer and was labeled as “Italian Flavor”.  Frankly, I'm not sure I want to know what an Italian tastes like, nor do I really want to know how they came to the conclusion of what an Italian tastes like.  At this point, I have the mental picture of the residents of Stanten Island, definitely not good eats.  

Defense’s Exhibit 1:

 Now that I've had to wash my brain out with bleach we're back to terrines.  Meatloaf is usually slathered with a mixture of ketchup, sugar and vinegar, incinerated in an oven hot enough to have been described in Dante's inferno until the meat shrinks, withers and squeezes out every bit of moisture.  The now sahara-like meat-product is unceremoniously slopped onto a plate next to gluey mashed potatoes and limp insipid canned green beans.  In fact, the whole reason products like the one pictured below exist is to compensate for a poorly made meatloaf that has leached all it’s succulence.  


One of the techniques utilized to create the tight texture of a terrine is a mixture of bread, cream and eggs (and regularly includes a spirit    such as brandy).  When all are mixed together it’s called a panada, at this point I always seem to picture actual panda bears, go figure.  On the other hand, terrines are gently cooked in a low-temp oven, whilst being coddled in a jacuzzi-like water-bath then slowly massaged over night to allow the mixture to compress to uniformity and reabsorb any errant liquids then sliced and served with tasty accouterments such as pickles of various but thoughtful design; toast points, a dab of jam and maybe some grainy/spicy/acidy mustard.  Now don't get me wrong, I loves me some meatloaf, there is very little in this world I love more than leftover meatloaf slathered with Hellman's and slapped between a couple slices of bread wonderbread, that stuff is mana for the soul.  And while many parallels exist between these two meat products in the end they are more like apples and oranges. 

I went back to my stalwart reference, Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.  If you are looking to purchase a book to start learning more about charcuterie I highly recommend this book.  If you're already making charcuterie products and want to expand or refine your knowledge, get this book, you won't regret it.  

One word about the afore mentioned overnight massage, in reality it's a controlled squish.  Imagine if you will Spanx for your meat.  You want to get something hard and flat and cut it so it just sits inside the terrine pan.  Please make it food safe or at least cover it with plastic wrap and a aluminum foil (yes both).  I went to my local hardware store and picked up a square of Plexiglas for under $5, scored it with a razor and snapped it into the size I needed.  Then I headed over to the gardening section and purchased a couple paving bricks.  You can use whatever you want as a weight, I just like how easily bricks stack.  You can use cans of food, workout weights or give JB Prince a ring, they have this fancy terrine press.  Kinda overkill but pretty cool and I've begun to attempt to justify its purchase.  I want to mention again, if you chose to use something that's not foodsafe, double bag it with the plastic wrap and aluminum.  You're already playing with meat, you don't want to have gravel bits in the mix.  

CAUTION: The recipe below contains baby cow.  Yes, it's true folks, I eat cute baby cows.  I know that some people prefer to avoid veal products but to be honest, it's just about the easiest liver to get at a specific weight at my local butcher shop.  You can substitute chicken liver which is available at most supermarkets or pork liver but you might have to go to an Asian market for that.  

So the recipe I chose to do is Pâté de Campagne from Charcuterie.  It's a classic and a good place to start, below is my adaptation:

Pâté de Campagne

1 kg pork shoulder
100 grams veal liver
50 grams yellow onion (aka - Spanish onion)
25 grams (approx) chopped parsley (I went with the volume measurement of 1/4 cup)
24 grams garlic
25 grams kosher salt
16.5 grams pink salt (optional – if you use it you might want to reduce the kosher salt to 15 grams)
3 grams fresh ground black pepper
2 grams pate spice
20 grams all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 Tbl brandy
1/2 cup heavy cream

Pâté Spice
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbl ground white pepper

Prepare the terrine pan:  Spray the inside of the pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Now cut a length of plastic wrap that's about 2.5 times the length of your terrine pan and lay the plastic wrap into the pan, across the bottom and up the sides.  This is where you have a decision to make, you can use your hands to manipulate the plastic wrap to remove as many wrinkles or bubbles as you can but I prefer an alternate method.  Make sure that your plastic wrap reaches at least to the top edge of all four sides of your pan and gently fill the plastic wrapped pan with water to just below the edge.  Now when you (gently) pull and tug on the plastic wrap the weight of the water will help displace the air bubbles and wrinkles and make everything all smooth and happy-like.  When everything has been smoothed to your satisfaction just pour out the water.  Whichever method you choose, once you're satisfied set the terrine pan off to the side until your meat mixture is ready.  

This is also a good time to get your water bath ready.  Place your terrine pan into another pan that's at least as deep as the terrine pan.  With the terrine pan in the larger pan add water to the larger pan until it reaches about 2/3-3/4 of the way up the side of the terrine pan.  Remove the terrine pan and set both aside until their ready to use.  Also, get your over heating to 300 degrees F.  

In a medium bowl combine the liver, through pâté spice and put in the fridge.  You want everything as cold as possible.  Now grind the pork shoulder through the large die of your grinder.  Take about 1/3 of the ground mixture, add it to the liver and grind that through your smaller die.  Combine the first and second grinds together and place in the refrigerator.  

Now on to the panda, I mean panada.  This terrine eschews the bread and instead calls for flour, and to reduce the possibility of lumps I found that this process of mixing the panada seems to work well.  First lightly whisk up the eggs, then whisk in the flour a little at a time.  Once fully combined whisk in the brandy and cream.  

Now combine the ground meat mixture with the panada and mix with either a spatula, a big wooden spoon or your hands until the mixture comes together.  At first everything will seem kinda soupy but as you continue to mix everything the myosin in the meat will begin to get all happy-like, the mix will become a little sticky and the mass will begin to coalesce and get less soupy, which is just about when you want to stop.

If you choose to add some sort of garnish you would want to include it when mixing everything together.  Options include small cubes of fatback, pistachios, craisins or in the case of this terrine pickled green peppercorns which had been rinsed and drained.  Add or not as you desire.  A word on the peppercorns...some people liked them, I totally unabashedly hated them.  They were like little spicy land mines and I did not find that they added anything but a bit of danger to the terrine.    

Spoon the mixture into your prepared terrine pan of choice lightly while trying to avoid including air bubbles.  When all the terrine is added take the terrine pan and lightly slam the base of the terrine pan on the cutting board about three to four times.  Don't go nuts here, you don't want to break anything, but the banging helps to remove and/or reduce air bubbles that might have made their way into the mixture.  

Smooth the top of the mixture with a spatula and lightly fold over your over-hanging plastic wrap.  Avoid pulling the plastic wrap tight or taut, if anything you want it on the looser side.  As the plastic wrap heats in the oven it has a tendency to contract and if you pulled it too tight at this point it can pull the top and sides of the terrine inward making the top a slight dome, still good eats, just not so much pretty.  

If your terrine pan came with a lid add it and place the prepared water-bath in the over and then the terrine pan into the water-bath.  Cook for about one hour and check the internal temperature, you want to hit about 150 degrees F (160 if you used chicken livers).  Remove the terrine from the oven (leave the water-bath in place and deal with it another time when all that water has cooled down.  

Place the terrine pan on a rimmed cookie sheet, add your press and weights and let it sit for about 30-60 minutes or so to cool.  Then place the terrine in the fridge overnight to rest, still weighted.  I've even seen some people wrap around the terrines and weights with plastic wrap so everything's more secure.  

If you've been paying attention I've already mentioned how I like to serve my terrine.  Typically it's sliced into approximately 1/2" thick slices, left cold and accompanied by some good artisan jelly (no Smuckers here folks, please for the sake of all things holy), some grainy mustard (no French's), some nice thick crusted bread that's been lightly toasted and maybe some nice acidic cornichons.  

Then sit back and revel in the awesomnicity that is you.  


Ben the Urban Farmer said...

Wow, that terrine looks sensational. I'll have to have a go at making this!

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