The thing I really love about cooking, and specifically charcuterie, is taking humble ingredients, and turning them into something special. A terrine is the perfect example of this idea. Today we are taking a humble chicken, and turning it into an edible mosaic of deliciousness. It is also a thrifty dish, feeding ten people for around $12, guaranteed to impress your guests, and the best part is, with a Vitamix (or food processor), it’s actually very easy to make.
You will need:
1 Whole Chicken
1 Pint of Heavy Cream
A handful of Pistachios
½ pound of Shitake Mushrooms
2 Bunches of Tarragon and Chives
2 Cloves of Garlic
Butter, Salt, White Pepper and Green Peppercorns
Start by deboning the chicken. Remove the skin and strip the meat from the leg bones. If you don’t want to do this you can buy boneless and skinless breasts and thighs, but you will miss out on having a nice chicken carcass to make stock with. Weigh out 450 grams of chicken breast, dice it and place in the Vitamix blender with the white of one egg. This is for our chicken mousse. It is going to be equal parts by weight of lean chicken breast and heavy cream. If that sounds a little rich, I can tell you that the total fat content of the mixture is still less than your average pork pate or meat loaf, so we can at least call this dish a casual nod in the direction of healthy options.
I also find it very beneficial to work with exact ratios for my seasoning. For this, I figure out the total weight of my chicken and the cream, and use 1.8% of salt. This ratio is perfect for sausages also. You need a good set of scales, work in grams, and use the calculator on your phone. 900 grams total weight works out to 16.2 grams of salt, or about 2 ¼ teaspoons. Also add 2 grams of white pepper.
Time for the Vitamix to do the hard work. We are making a meat emulsion, which is basically a stable blend of fat, protein and liquid components. The most important thing is to work fast and keep everything cold while we mix it. Set your Vitamix on high, and process the meat in two second bursts while plunging the tamper into all four corners. Give it a break between bursts so the motor doesn’t overheat.
When it is thoroughly blended, it will have heated up a little, so place the whole thing in the fridge for a while to cool back down.
Trim the stalks from the shitake mushrooms, keep half of them whole and cut half of them into small dice.
Saute them in some butter and finely chopped garlic until cooked.
When the chicken mixture has cooled, blend in the heavy cream in three stages until smooth and emulsified. I want to point out that this mousse is pretty versatile stuff, and can also form the basis of a ravioli filling, a boudin blanc type sausage or the stuffing for any meats.
Now finely chop the herbs, roughly chop the green peppercorns and mix with the pistachios and chicken mousse.
Oil a loaf pan, and line with a double layer of cling film. Now we can build layers of mousse, chicken breast and thigh, and whole and diced mushrooms. I make sure I have a nice line of whole mushroom going all the way through. To be extra fancy, you could also line the tin with slices of prosciutto, or blanched leek or spinach.
Fold over the plastic wrap, make a foil lid if you have some foil, place in a pan with hot water so the water comes at least halfway up the pan, and place in a 325 degree oven. Mine took about an hour and 15 minutes – remove when the internal temperature is 140 degrees.
Weigh the terrine down with a similar sized pan and a couple of tins. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
Now comes the time for the big reveal, the first slice, and no matter how many times you do it, it never fails to satisfy.
I think that turned out rather pretty, don’t you?
I am serving mine with some blistered Shishito peppers, lightly pickled cucumber and a dollop of sour cream and mustard. I think this is fancy enough to kick off a dinner party, rustic enough for a sunny lunch with some toasted baguettes, and perfectly acceptable to shove the leftovers between two slices of bread for a midnight snack.
If you are interested in learning more about working with meats in different ways, The Chopping Block's A Home Cook's Guide to Butchery is a great resource. You'll be introduced to the art of butchery with detailed photo and video tutorials on how to break down meat, poultry and fish as well as a ton of recipes to get you started at home.