Terrine de Lapin - Wild Hare Terrine
Here is one of Gabriel's family recipes translated into slangy American English by moi.: A traditional French and Suisse-Romande (French-speaking part of Switzerland) dish for the holidays is wild-hare terrine, a pate' with morsels of wild-hare fillets inside and covered in aspic. Remember aspic? This is the part of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking" that gave Julie Powell so much trouble. It was a big fad in early 1960's American kitchens but it never really went out of style in traditional French ones. Gabriel's dad holes up in the kitchen every winter for 2 days straight and makes about 12 of these terrines as gifts for lucky friends. However, if you grew up with the idea that gelatin should taste like cherries, this dish might give you a little pause. And then there's the pork blood, but I'm getting ahead of myself... If you're feeling bold, (not faint of heart or kosher of spirit), I give you Wild Hare Terrine:
For marinaded hare/rabbit:
1 wild hare or rabbit, de-boned (Gabriel used Italian grocery store rabbit)
1 onion, diced
bouquet garni: 2 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs parsley, 1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp juniper berries, bruised with the side of a knife
1/2 tsp hole peppercorns
1 sm clove garlic, bruised with the side of a knife
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup cognac
for the stock:
1 whole onion with 2 cloves stuck into it
1 clove garlic
2/3 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
10 whole peppercorns
for the pate':
1 sm. mild Italian sausage link, w/o casing
4 ozs pork fillet
4 ozs pork blood
4 ozs cooked ham
4 ozs roast veal
8 ozs fresh pork belly, or fatty non-smoked bacon
8 ozs finely sliced fatty bacon*
1/4 cup cognac plus extra cognac for the chef (amount up to you)
* In Italy we're lucky enough to have a butcher slice only the fat side of fresh pork belly, which is closer to what the original recipe calls for.
for the Aspic:
2 packets of unflavored gelatin
optional garnish: French cornishon pickles (not sweet gherkins, they are flavored very differently even though they look similar), cocktail onions, capers
The Marinaded Rabbit: First, 2-3 days before you want to serve this, de-bone the rabbit/hare: if your butcher will do this for you, all the better! Make sure that the fillets on the back remain intact. They should be 2 long strips. The meat at the thighs should be sliced into long strips like the fillets. The shoulder meat has a lot of tendons that you really don't want in the terrine, so take care to remove them. Like I said, it's way better if you can find a butcher to do this!
Place the rabbit/hare meat into a medium-sized bowl with the marinade ingredients. Add extra wine and/or cognac to make sure everything's covered. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. If you're using wild hare, the herbs will tone down the gaminess and if you're using supermarket rabbit, it will kick up the flavor.
For the stock: (it's also nice to do this part the same day as you do the marinade) Place the rabbit/hare bones in a large stock pot, cover with water and bring to a light boil. Remove foam from the surface and as soon as it stops producing the foam, add the vegetables and herbs. Allow to barely simmer uncovered for 4 hours while it perfumes your house with a chicken-soupy scent and you go do something fun. After 4 hours, strain the stock, cool and refrigerate.
For the pate': The day before you want to serve this, pre-heat the oven to 325F. Grind the pork fillet, cooked ham, roast veal and pork belly into a sort of Italian sausage meat consistency - not so fine that everything is totally uniform like in a kielbasa, if you get what I mean. If you have a kind butcher who will grind your meats for you, all the better! Otherwise, we have seen that a good food processor does the trick rather nicely. Place everything a large mixing bowl and set aside. Blanch the liver in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove and place in the unwashed food processor and pulse along with the rabbit kidneys, if you have them, until you have small bits. Remove and place into the bowl. Add half the marinaded rabbit (the smaller parts, not the long strips) into the processor and chop to small bits as well. Remove and place in the bowl along with the liver mixture. Add 1/4 cup of cognac and combine.
Take a deep breath, close your eyes and have a shot of cognac or go to your happy place while you try not to think of what you're going to do next: In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg. Pass the blood through a mesh strainer to remove blood clots and pour in with the egg. Then add the mixture to the large mixing bowl with all the ground meat. (Yech!) Just think, to the Masai warriors (not to mention Julia Child), this is a standard everyday routine. Mix everything into a homogeneous pate'. Music to mix blood into your pate' by: "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Goth greats, Bauhaus. Add salt, ground black pepper and ground nutmeg to taste. We're downing more cognac or going back to the happy place again as we take the risk of actually tasting this raw meat, egg, blood mixture or we whistle as we scoop up a teaspoon and fry it first. In any case knowing whether it's salty enough is very important since the dish should come out perfectly seasoned. You don't want to be sprinkling salt onto your terrine slices.
Preparing the terrines: M-kay, back to standard cooking practices. Line 2 standard (5"x9") bread loaf pans, with the thin slices of pork belly or fatty non-smoked bacon. All surfaces should be covered. Fill halfway with the pate' then add the rabbit/hare meat strips (2-3 per loaf pan) going longways. Add the rest of the pate' into the loaf pans, press down so as not to leave any bubbles or holes and cover over with the remaining sheets of pork belly or bacon.
Cooking the terrines: Get 1 large or 2 small, shallow baking dishes place the loaf pans inside and fill dishes with boiling water so that the water level goes up to at least halfway up the outside of the loaf pans. This bain marie will help modulate the temperature so the terrines don't overcook and dry out. Place in the 325F oven for 90 minutes. Remove from oven, cool and refrigerate overnight.
For the aspic: Several hours before serving, boil 2 packets of unflavored gelatin with the stock according to package directions (Gabriel was not too clear on this part, so if you follow package directions for amounts, you'll have plenty of aspic for the terrines. Cool the gelatin to room temperature. Take the terrines out of their loaf pans, place the empty pans in the freezer for quick gelatin setting and remove the strips of pork belly or bacon from the terrines along with any other fat on the surface. Place 1/4 inch layer of gelatin in the bottom of the loaf pans and place in the freezer for a few minutes until set, not frozen. Pour another 1/4 inch of gelatin on top of the first layer and place a few gherkins sliced in half the long way, cocktail onions and capers in an attractive way. Repeat freezer step. Remove the pans and place the terrines back into the pans. There will be room on the sides where the pork belly or bacon used to be. Fill in the gaps with gelatin up to about 1/2 inch and place in the freezer again. Once set, remove from freezer and add more garnishes. Pour in another 1/2 inch of gelatin, repeat freezing, garnishing and filling in with gelatin until you have reached the edge of the pans. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Pour the rest of the gelatin onto a square pan (to about 1/2 inch deep) and refrigerate until set. With a knife, slice the gelatin into cubes to use for decoration around the terrines.
To serve: Fill the sink with a few inches of warm water and dip the loaf pans in to help release the gelatin. Turn out onto a serving platter and slide the loaf pans up. Scatter gelatin cubes around the sides of the terrine. Serve with a flourish and wow your guests! (The pork blood will be our little secret).