Terrine Bordelaise

Making a terrine or pate en terrine is not as easy as making a meatloaf. I’ve read so many recipes in various books from well-respected authors who always use that silly introduction to their recipe for a rustic country terrine. The line inevitably goes something like “oh don’t be intimidated by the Frenchy name and technique. Terrines are easy. If you can make a meatloaf or meatballs you can make a terrine…” Bullshit I say. Just because the two preparations share some similarities it does not make them comparable. Sure, both have ground meat and seasoning, eggs and some binders like bread crumbs. With this analogy making a croissant is pretty much as easy as making a muffin. So no, making a good terrine with excellent texture and flavor takes more attention to detail and a few key techniques than a meatloaf. That’s the not-so-good news.

Impatient? Skip to the recipe

The good news however, is that if you pay attention to those details a good terrine is not terribly difficult. Here I made most recently a Terrine Bordelaise adapted from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s book Pate, Terrine, Rillette: Recipes from the Craft of Charcuterie. The template for this recipe can be used to make a terrine with any flavor you might like besides this one.

The keys to success for a good terrine (or pate, maybe even more so for a smooth pate) can be summed up like this:

  • Keep all the meat and ingredients very cold. Any cooked ingredients should be chilled before mixing.
  • Cook the terrine gently. If you have a sous vide setup that is perfect and by far my preference. If not, the classic method of using a bain marie (water bath) in an oven is a must. DO NOT ever just bake the terrine in the oven without placing it in a water bath.
  • After it cools slightly you need to weigh it down and compress it. What works well is a rectangular piece of cardboard that fits on the surface of the terrine. Wrap that in a couple of layers of aluminum foil (See that picture above with the tomato cans). Now, lay a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the cooked tearing then the aluminum rectangle and then add some weights. A couple of tomato cans usually work well.
  • Chill the whole thing in the fridge, weights and all.

Grinding your own meat is preferred but not a must. Just buy some good quality ground pork. If you go this route you really should opt to buy pork that is fatty. Lean is not good for this preparation. It would be great if the butcher you buy it from is willing to grind some for you. This way you can pick the cut yourself, maybe 70% pork shoulder to 30% pork belly. 

You can technically just make a terrine from ground pork, salt and spices. To make it more interesting though – and after going through the fun steps of making one you should make it more interesting- you need to add some inclusions or interior garnishes. These add texture, flavor and they look pretty cool. They can be almost anything that you think would be tasty in the mix you have put together. The recipe I have below uses mushrooms, parsley, chunks of duck confit and currants but you can switch all that up. Stuff like cubes of bacon, or ham, smoked diced duck breast, dried fruit, sauteed greens or mushrooms, nuts (green pistachios are cool), olives, roasted peppers…really anything works within reason. Inclusions can make up maybe 30% of the mixture or so. Any items that do not work well raw, should be cooked and chilled. Dried fruit can be soaked in a flavor liqueur too. 

Container to cook it in? Do you need a fancy and cool looking “terrine” for your terrine? Honestly, not really. Any container that is narrow and at least a good 3 inches deep should work. A normal loaf pan is good enough. I have two Le Creuset red terrine dishes that I usually use. One is about a 1.5 quart (liter) capacity and the other is maybe half of that but is a bit deeper. Do not let not having a terrine dish stop you from trying it. The only thing to watch out for here is how much of the meat mixture you will end up using. Whatever the size you want to leave about maybe a half inch free space from the rim. Do not overfill it.

Terrine Bordelaise with Mushrooms and Duck Confit

Servings: Many People as a first course

Pate meat mix
  • 1000 gr Pork shoulder, fatty, cubed (or use fatty ground pork)
  • 15 gr Salt
  • 3 gr Pink curing salt (Prague Powder #1) – optional, but without it the terrine comes out drab brown
  • 1 tsp Pate spices (see below for a version, or come up with your own mixing and matching as you like)
  • 120 gr (½ Cup) Red wine, cold
  • 60 ml Heavy cream
  • 100 gr (2 large) Eggs
  • 2 Tbsp Flour 
Interior garnishes
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 220 gr Mushrooms, diced
  • 2 Tbsp Shallots, minced
  • ¼ Cup Parsley, chopped
  • ½ Cup dried currants or diced dry cherries
  • 2 Duck leg confit, skin removed and meat diced into large pieces
Pate spices
  • 30 gr Black Pepper, ground
  • 15 gr Paprika
  • 7 gr Nutmeg, ground
  • 7 gr Mace, ground
  • 7 gr Dry Ginger, ground
  • 7 gr Cloves, ground
  1. Season the pork with the salt, spices and sugar. Ideally let this sit in the fridge overnight. If using ground pork just mix the salt, spices and sugar into the meat.
  2. Grind the meat and mix in the cold red wine. Continue mixing and kneading for a good 5 minutes. You want this to become a cohesive mass. We are not making burgers so mix and knead away.
  3. Prepare the interior garnish by melting the butter and sauteeing the mushrooms until the liquid from the mushroom evaporates. Add the shallots and saute for a few more minutes. Taste and season with a little salt. Add the parsley and the currants and duck confit and chill the mixture. 
  4. Add the cooled garnish to the meat along with the eggs, cream and flour. Knead for a few minutes to make sure you have a good bind. 
  5. If you have a sous vide setup, heat your water to 75 C (167 F).  Make sure the container with the water fits the terrine mold with water coming at least ¾ of the way up the mold but does not get inside the terrine when circulating. Test it out before filling the mold with meat! 
  6. If you do not have a sous vide setup, heat your oven to 300 F. Place a baking dish or roasting pan filled with hot water that comes up ¾ of the way up your terrine mold of choice.
  7. Line a terrine mold or loaf pan with plastic wrap (for a cooler presentation you can shingle thinly sliced bacon or pancetta or prosciutto in the mold instead of plastic wrap). Fill the mold with the meat mix. Fold the plastic wrap (or bacon or prosciutto or pancetta) over the top.
  8. Cover the terrine mold with its top or with aluminum foil. Cook for 2 hours in the sous vide bath or about 1 hour in the oven bath. Start taking the temperature of the terrine about 45 minutes after starting to cook. When it hits about 64 C (147 F) in the center it is done.
  9. Let it cool for about 30 minutes, place weights on the meat and put it in the fridge.
  10. When ready to serve. Unmold it, slice and enjoy with mustard, bread and various pickles.

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