Welcome back ladies and gentlemen to Kitchen Catastrophes. So sorry about last week, it was a mixture of helpless rage, new and exciting pain, travel and yard work that simply bowled me over. Today we’re going to approach a new recipe: the dessert terrine. Something light and easy, since the weather is so beastly warm this time of year.
Absolutely dreadful. And so many colors! Why can't things be nice, and elegant, and universally white...I think I said too much.
Now, if I were a coquettish man, (which I assure you, I am not) I might be tempted to string you along for a little while on this particular topic. I could briefly touch on what I’m making, how I’m making it, etc, etc. And then commit to covering the topic of what, exactly, a terrine is on Thursday, thus stretching out a single topic into two posts, allowing me a more relaxing time. That would be disingenuous, however, so let’s tackle it here and now, and get ahead of it.
You’re Terrine Me Apart, Lisa
And The Room jokes continue. Good to see you’re always half-assing it, Title Jon. Anyway, what is a terrine? Glad you asked, there’s no consistent answer. That concludes the lesson, have a great day.
Good to have a short one every now and again. Alright, pack it up, boys!
It’s Terrine Up My Heart, When I’m With You
I gave you a second chance at a title joke, and you went with Backstreet Boys? Great. Great.
Anyway, as you may have guessed, I WILL spend more time explaining it. Now, let’s get to the core of this: “terrine” means at least 3 things, seems to have evolved from another thing, THAT thing has a pretty spotty history, so this is all a damn mess.
First off, let’s talk pâté. Pâté, and maybe I’ll invest the time to go back and actually put in the accent marks, maybe I won’t, (Spoiler: I did.) is a dish made of ground meat and fat, which records indicate was CERTAINLY sold as far back as the days of Nero in Rome, and potentially to ancient Athens. It’s the rich people version of Meatloaf. In FACT, meatloaf is just the American recreation of a specific type of pâté. But basically, farmers, butchers and whatever would take various organs, trimmed cuts from other steaks or roasts, herbs and spices, maybe some soft veggies and so on, and grind or dice it all, then cook it in fat until it made a paste. The paste could be stored, and cut up later, or even spread on bread if done correctly.
Eventually, France was making them, and specialized in two styles: pâté en croute and pâté en terrine. Pâté in Croute was pâté cooked in a crust. Like an all-meat Pot Pie. Pâté en terrine was cooked in a special little pan called a terrine, which was made of clay, had a tight lid, and was rectangular or oval. Over time, people started called the ones you made in terrines just “terrines”. Like how Denny’s will gladly serve you a breakfast “skillet”.
This is not a Denny's skillet, because it lacks the characteristic whiff of desperation.
Over time, various other rules evolved, since it was kind of dumb to use a completely different word for the same dish just because it was made in a different pan. Terrines were more like pâtés de champagne, or “country pâtés”, meaning they weren’t as finely ground, often having the ingredients just coarsely chopped. (German pâtés de champagne, by the way, were that aforementioned recipe Meatloaf was made to copy.) While pâtés could be hot or cold, terrines were cold, or at most room temp. The first rule, about the textures, was broadened: now, pâtés had to have consistent textures, while terrines could do basically whatever they wanted: rough chops, distinct layers, just go nuts. These more avant garde textures meant more fat had to added, to keep the loaf together when served at room temp. Then, people saw the layered meat loaves in special little pots, and went “Okay, so ANYTHING made with layers in a little pot is a terrine!” And France went “Wait, what? No. Stop.” But it was too late, and things unfolded from there.
My recipe, as I so enjoy etymological perversity, is one of the last options. IT consists of NO meat, very little in the way of fat, and is a fruit-focused chilled dessert. I would have written “Frozen” there, but…well, we’ll get into that.
How The Sausage gets Made
I don’t know how many times I’ve told you all this, but it’s important to remember: my planning for these posts is minimal at best. I basically strive to make at least one interesting thing a week, and hope it all pans out. This has been more difficult dealing with conflicting tastes in my house: my father’s illness, reinforcing his natural tendencies, makes him resistant to anything more complicated or exotic than a Whopper. My brother has a genetic issue with Cilantro, which limits my ability to go Southeast Asian or South American, both popular spots for me. So, when I DO plan a dish, I have to look at it and say “Who’s going to eat this.” Today’s recipe was an attempt at something where the answer was “Everyone.”
I was flipping through a food network magazine, and they had an insert created by a bunch of corporates sponsors, where each sponsor got to add a recipe that used THEIR product. One in particular jumped out at me: Daisy had backed a Raspberry-Watermelon Terrine. This was impressive to me because, as you may know, Sour Cream is neither of those fruits. It in fact, is NOT a fruit at all. Well, the pitch seemed simple enough: you make a vanilla dairy based layer and a tangy fruit layer, and they just sit on each other. The dairy layer used Sour Cream (There’s your angle, Daisy. I’m onto you.), whole milk, and a friend I’ve wanted to play with for some time, and never gotten the chance: gelatin!
Yes, the basic form of Jell-o, Gelatin comes in packets of powder that you add to…basically any liquid to form into a compact layer. It may not have the prettiest results…
Like spilling sane on a loose carpet.
But it gets the job done. The recipe was pretty simple, if a little irritating: see, you can’t make the layers at the same time, because, well, there’s no real way to keep liquids separate in the same container without using some aggressive chemicals or freaky electrical shenanigans. So, you gotta make the dairy layer, and freeze it for an hour, then make the fruit layer, pour on top, and freeze another 3 hours.
A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Now, I don’t own a terrine, so I just used a loaf pan for this, which my research tells me is functionally identical. And freezing the first layer went smooth as cream, excepting one notable hiccup: when I went shopping for the ingredients, my mother and I agreed it was quite likely we had sour cream at home. When it came time to make the terrine, however, I couldn’t find any.
Then again, I found like, 9 cucumbers and 2 watermelons, so clearly things are looking up.
The more perceptive of you will note that yes, we do definitely have Sour Cream. Also, that we have too much shit in our fridge. Both are true. (A fair whack of it, in our defense, comes from things we got for my dad that he just couldn’t finish, and now exist in a limbo where Nate and I won’t eat them out of deference, in case he decides he wants them, and he won’t make a decision until it’s time to throw them away.) But, in the moment, I just could not look up and to the left, so I ended up using some vanilla Greek yogurt instead, thus depriving Daisy of any sense of accomplishment in getting me to make the dish. EAT IT, CORPORATE CAPITALISM.
Then came the fruit layer. Watermelon and Raspberries, blended with lemon juice and sugar. All pretty standard stuff. I will say that every time I have to strain liquids through a sieve to remove seeds, it takes like, three times longer than I think it will. You end up just stirring and stirring and stirring…
You could say it's quite the...strain.
Anyway, then you freeze that. Except you don’t. Because I’m an idiot, as my brother will gleefully tell you at the drop of a hat. Typically whenever I drop a hat. Or when HE drops a hat, because it’s my fault then too, for some reason. What I’m saying is that our relationship is strangely antagonistic, and hat-based.
BUT, what’s important for YOU is the fact that SOMEHOW, I misread the word “refrigerate” as “Freeze”. Yeah, this thing isn’t supposed to be frozen AT ALL, let alone for several days. This lead to…consternation when we went to unpack it. See, when you freeze gelatinous mixtures, ESPECIALLY ones with high sugar content, the ice and sugar can ‘cut’ cell walls the gelatin built to hold in liquid. IN short, the terrine was bleeding fruit juice.
"Seeping" may be the more accurate term.
This is, of course, not what you want. It didn’t ruin the dish, of course. I ate two slices just this morning, and it was quite good. Nate gave it his equivalent of a 4 star review: “I didn’t hate that.” Again, the main issue was in the texture of the fruit layer, which, with its higher water content, was more affected by the freezing. Heck, after 24 hours of thawing in the fridge, the middle was STILL icy. But I suspect we’ll probably eat a large amount of the terrine despite its flaws, and if you simply use the right ice-box for your version, I think yours will come out great. Or, as the French say…génial? They have a lot of adjectives meaning “great”, so I have no idea which one I’m supposed to use. I could ask Nate, but he’s watching fictional hockey leagues right now.
My life is weird.
Smash cut to the theme song!
JOIN US ON THURSDAY, WHEN JON TALKS ABOUT HOT DOGS, SEX, AND BEING IN THE MOMENT. IT WILL HOPEFULLY BE LESS WEIRD THAN THAT PITCH MAKES IT SOUND.
Raspberry Watermelon Terrine
For the dairy layer:
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
1 cup cold whole milk
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
For the fruit layer:
4 cups chopped seedless watermelon
2 cups raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
1. Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving several inches of overhang on all sides.
2. Make the dairy layer: Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup milk in a medium bowl. Let stand 2 minutes. Heat the remaining 1/2 cup milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until steaming. Pour over the gelatin mixture and whisk until combined. Add the sugar and whisk until dissolved. Whisk in the sour cream, vanilla and salt until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan, and then lightly tap the pan on the counter to make an even layer. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.
3. Make the fruit layer: Combine the watermelon, raspberries, sugar, lemon juice and salt in a blender; process until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing the puree through with the back of a spoon. Transfer 1 cup of the puree to another bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin; let stand 2 minutes. Heat 1 cup of the remaining puree in a saucepan over medium heat until steaming. Pour over the gelatin mixture and whisk until combined. Stir in the remaining puree; let cool.
4. Spoon the cooled puree over the white layer; loosely cover with the overhanging plastic wrap. Refrigerate until completely set, about 3 hours.
5. Unwrap the terrine; invert onto a platter. Slice and serve