IMBB#9 Terrine Time! The beginning and the end.
For the first time since I started taking part in IMBB I am forced to declare failure. I DID in fact make a terrine and I DID in fact serve it to sixty people as part of the appetizer course of our neighborhood progressive dinner. And several people even said they liked it. But I failed to take a picture and the terrine failed to hold together to make nice slices – since that is one of the nice things about a terrine – that the slices are pretty – I declare failure.
I’ll tell you about it anyway and I’ll send the write up in as an entry, but in my mind I failed.
I had decided that I would do a very rustic country terrine made up from what was surplus around the house and from what is currently fresh in the way of produce. I had made a very nice poached chicken dish a couple of days before and deliberately made extra so that there would be nice, soft, flavorful chicken for the terrine. I reserved all the broth and vegetables from poaching the chicken as well so I could reduce them down to a jelly to hold the terrine together. I decided that some mushrooms we had lying around and some beet greens would go well. The basic ingredients were coming together nicely.
Because of the beet greens I decided that red would be a nice overall color for the terrine jelly, so I took all the poaching liquid and vegetables and added a full bottle of cheap merlot and set it to simmer for more than two hours and then strained it and then returned it to simmering. Meanwhile I took a glass bread pan and started to put the terrine together. And this is where I made my fatal mistake. I had decided on red as a theme and I had a LOT of red peppers lying around from our CSA organic vegetable box. I thought they would make a very pretty top layer in the final terrine, so I cut them into thin slices and laid them lengthways thoroughly covering the bottom of the pan. Then I put in a layer of shredded chicken. I sauteed the mushrooms as dry as possible with garlic and made them the next layer. Then I caramelized some onions and made them the next layer. I wanted a contrast flavor so I diced up garlic marinated green olives for the next layer. Then beet greens (previously sauteed) and finally another layer of chicken.
Now for the medium to hold it all together. I will not inflict gelatin on my family because of mad cow disease. [Note of warning – food industry diatribe coming]. Gelatin is made from cow carcasses – lots of cow carcasses that are boiled down to extract the gelatin proteins from the bones and joints. There is one problem with this – these are indeterminate cow carcasses that come from anywhere. Lots of indeterminate cow carcasses. These all include the spine of the cow and the spinal cord and nerve tissue – they probably also include the brain. Mad cow disease is caused by a simple (relatively) protein molecule called a prion that is absolutely known to be in the nervous system tissue (like the spinal cord and brain) of cows. Since it is a protein, it isn’t necessarily destroyed by heating. In fact, despite lots of research, they don’t have any idea how much of the cow it gets into. The result is that commercial gelatin is essentially distillate of cow bone, with some of that cow bone containing nervous system tissue. The prion may or may not be destroyed by the boiling. I’m not going to take the chance. So no gelatin, no jello, no marshmallows, no gummy bears, etc.
Instead I use agar agar. It makes a jelly with a slightly grainy texture but it works fine. I added agar agar powder, let it all cool a little and filled the pan with it. I let it settle and filled again. Then I put plastic wrap around it and another pan on top and weighted it with cans. Into the fridge. About two hours later I poured of the liquid that had oozed out.
When time came for the progressive dinner I turned the terrine out onto a plate. It looked beautiful Meat, vegetables, etc. suspended in a deep red wine-colored jelly. Red pepper strips afloat on top.
Then it came time to slice it. The red pepper was tough, the jelly soft, the whole terrine fell apart into a giant pile of meat and vegetables encased in jelly. It did taste good put it wasn’t a terrine anymore.