The word terrine can refer to both food cooked in a mold (en terrine) and the mold itself. As a food, terrines are a form of charcuterie dating back to the 18th century. They can be made with meat, poultry, seafood or vegetables – there are even dessert applications using fruit – and are typically held together by aspic or jelly. While some authorities on the subject tend to lump terrines and pâtés into the same category, I find them to be very different, with the terrine’s use of aspic as a binding agent being the key difference.
Aspic is essentially flavored liquid or stock set with gelatin. Over-the-counter powdered gelatin is perfect for this application. Because aspic can be bland, it’s important to properly season the liquid and use good-quality meat, veggies, fruits or herbs to impart flavor and texture.
Another element that sets terrines apart is their visual presentation. The components of a terrine are thoughtfully layered and arranged within the mold so that when the terrine is sliced, each piece exhibits an artful design.
Just as with pâtés, the seasoning should be aggressive, the ingredients should be kept cold and the molded food should be firmly pressed to remove any air pockets and achieve consistent texture. However, unlike pâtés, terrines don’t necessarily need to be cooked. The summer tomato terrine at right, for example, uses raw heirloom tomatoes that are full of fresh, seasonal flavor. This light dish is quick and easy to make, but go ahead and let people assume you slaved for hours to achieve the stunningly beautiful slices.
Cassy Vires is the owner and chef of Home Wine Kitchen. She received her culinary training in Houston and has a knack for reimagining classic dishes.
Summer Tomato Terrine
Serve it just as you would a summer salad – lightly dressed, topped with some greens and paired with a refreshingly crisp sparkling rosé.
Yield | 1 terrine |
- 4 lbs multicolor heirloom cherry tomatoes
- 12 large heirloom tomatoes
- ¼ cup basil leaves
- 2 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 oz powdered gelatin
- salad greens
- balsamic vinegar
| Preparation | Separate the cherry tomatoes by color and slice in half. Set aside until ready to use. Halve the large heirloom tomatoes and squeeze the pulp, seeds and flesh into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add basil, salt and pepper and purée until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a large measuring cup. Add enough cold water to equal 3 cups of liquid. Place liquid in a saucepot and bring to a simmer.
Place ¼ cup cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add the gelatin mixture to the simmering tomato water and stir to dissolve.
| 1 | Lightly oil a terrine mold and line with plastic wrap, allowing excess wrap to hang over the sides of the mold. Add enough tomato water to fill ¼-inch of the mold. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to allow it to slightly set. Add one color of the cherry tomatoes in even layer. Add additional tomato water to just cover the tomatoes. | 2 | Continue layering the tomatoes by color, adding tomato water between each round. Work quickly to ensure the gelatin doesn’t set. Once the terrine mold is filled with tomatoes, pour a final layer of tomato water over the top, gently tapping the mold to release any air pockets. Add additional tomato water, if needed, to completely cover the tomatoes.
| 3 | Cover the terrine with the excess plastic wrap and gently push down on the surface with the lid or a cutting board. Place weights on the surface of the terrine and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
Once set, run a thin knife around the outside of the terrine and | 4 | invert onto a cutting board or platter, gently pulling on the plastic wrap to help unmold. Gently remove the plastic wrap. Slice the terrine with a sharp knife and dress each slice with fresh salad greens, remaining cherry tomatoes and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.