Monday, June 16, 2008

Culinary Adventures: A Terrine Story

I am now quite convinced that my oven needs to have its jets cleaned, which my landlady does for me, but due to circumstances I can't officially relate yet, that is going to have to wait, so this will probably be my last oven-related adventure for a while.

Anyway, the terrine. There was quite a lot of prep involved with this recipe, like cutting and cooking the asparagus (Michigan asparagus, which I get as often as possible, purchased at Meijer on sale) and getting all the ingredients together. I did something I should probably always do with fussy recipes, but which I don't do all the way generally, and got nearly all my chopping and gathering done in advance. For instance, while the asparagus was cooking I had time to chop the dill and chives, separate the eggs, and portion out flour, cream cheese, and the other dairy items. Especially with a gas stove like mine this is a good idea, because when you have butter that pretty much melts on its own from a warm pan, then add flour over a low heat, it's going to turn into "a thick paste" pretty darn quickly. Like, immediately. I think, really for the first time, I appreciated the role of a sous chef in the kitchen. It also gave me a festive cooking show feeling to have my little cups and bowls all arranged with stuff in them.

Things came together fairly well after that. The egg mixture, when completed, was maybe a little thicker than it ought to be, before the egg whites were added, but I think in the end this worked in my favor.

Also as an experiment in willpower, I beat the egg whites by hand. There were only two, and it made me very took forever, but they came out all right. I still favor my mixer for this job, but I was glad I did it myself this once.

Anyway, the terrine process (you can also use a loaf pan, but I heart my terrine) involves layering asparagus, then egg mixture, asparagus, egg, and asparagus. Then, foil over the top, put the terrine in a roasting pan half full of hot water (mistake 1--water not hot but merely lukewarm), and put in the oven at 350 degrees ("mistake" 2--I actually bumped the temp up to 355, but I'm still pretty sure it didn't keep that temperature long during the ensuing time) for 45 minutes, then ten more, then ten more...because, you see, the terrine wasn't quite done. It's supposed to stay in until it's just firm to the touch. Eventually, the edges seemed firm enough, and it had really been in the oven for a long time, so I took it out.

You're supposed to let the terrine cool, then chill it. I did this and then made the's an "orange sauce" which weirded me out, but actually there is very little orange and mostly butter. I'm really bad at making hollandaise sauces usually, or sauces of any kind, but this one went pretty well. I used white cooking wine instead of white wine vinegar because I really do not have that much kitchen room and you have to choose what you keep on hand wisely. The best part about the sauce is that it used up the two extra egg yolks left over from the souffles, which I had under cold water in the fridge.

I wasn't patient enough to chill the terrine all the way, because I wanted to taste it. You're supposed to turn the terrine out and slice it from there, but my terrine dish is very pretty and also convenient for the fridge. I also have my doubts as to whether it would stay in terrine form, because while the first slice never comes out easily, the terrine ended up being almost mousselike around the asparagus. Not as firm as a terrine should be. You can see the messy "slice" I made:

Fortunately, it tastes good. Today, I tried again with the slicing and had little more success. It simply isn't firm enough. But that's okay. As I said, it's a bit like egg mousse, and it's for me to eat, and I know what to improve for next time: Firmer cream cheese (I used tub cheese because the recipe calls for herbed cream cheese and it only comes in tubs), a hotter and less temperamental oven, a tiny bit more egg white whisking, and warmer water in the hot water bath.

1 comment:

Mrs. White said...

As some one who can't imagine cooking anything that takes this much time and attention, let me just say that your two recent culinary adventures are very impressive, look delicious, and you can come cook for me any time you'd like. ;)