When you write a food blog, there can be a pretty serious temptation to lie about the success rate of your cooking projects. It could be an exaggeration, that a recipe is more amazing-delicious-mind-blowing-best-ever than it is in real life. It might be a bigger lie than that, like me telling you that the recipe I made for the November Cook it! 2012 resolution turned out delicious and that we ate it all and that I’m going to make it ever day, always, because it was so good.
This month’s project was to make something charcuterie related. Originally I’d planned on making sausages and salami, but a friend of mine promised me a whole wild boar during December, and so it seemed really ridiculous to buy any pork during November since we’re about to have a ridiculous bounty of it. Since I have a fair amount of fresh fish in my freezer right now, the project I settled on ended up being a seafood terrine, one of the projects that I never got around to making during last year’s Charcutepalooza.
It was disgusting. It looked like cat food. It smelled worse. I actually tried to feed it to the cat but even he kind of sniffed it and then walked away. Even after I’d gotten rid of the terrine, the lingering smell on the dishes and utensils that had touched it made me want to gag.
The temptation to lie here is huge. This recipe should have been just fine, it should have tasted light and fresh, and it should have been a classy little appetizer to serve with a glass of wine or champagne at a holiday party. Unfortunately, I managed to commit a fatal error that any professional cook and local food advocate should absolutely know better than to do.
I was buying a few staples at the grocery store (whiskey, butter, coffee, etc.), and walked by the seafood department, where my thriftiness got the best of me and I was lured in by the siren song of lump crab meat. Dungennes crab is in season right now, so I figured it was probably caught somewhere near by, and it was on sale for super cheap, so I bought it. I’m cringing as I type this, because any good cook knows never, ever, ever, even if you’re starving to death and it’s the last food on earth after the zombie apocalypse, buy discount seafood. It will be gross and awful. I don’t know what I was thinking (well, yes I do, I was thinking CRAB I LOVE CRAB AND LOOK IT’S ONLY FIVE DOLLARS LEMME GET SOME OF THAT RIGHT NOW OH YAH COME TO MAMA!). Discount seafood is just a bad idea. Period.
Sure enough, when I got home and was making my terrine, I opened the pack of crab meat and smelled that it had seen much fresher days. I pretended it was fine and folded it into my fish mousseline (which smelled fresh and clean, and shouldn’t have been fiddled with) along with some blanched baby mustard greens. I crossed my fingers that it would taste okay once it was cooked and served properly. It didn’t. It got much worse. When I unmolded it the next day, the crab had clearly gone bad, despite the fact that the “sell by” date on the original package said it could have sat on the shelf at the grocery store for another day. The moral of the story: big box grocery stores are only good for buying toilet paper, booze, butter and coffee beans. I knew this already but sometimes we have to relearn life’s important lessons.
This recipe would have worked just fine if I’d used actual good quality, fresh crab instead of half rotten garbage from the grocery store. Since I’d really never made or tasted anything like this before, I kept the seasonings fairly basic, but next time I might infuse the cream with some horseradish root and add a splash of white wine. Serve with bread or crackers and pickled vegetables for a light lunch or an elegant appetizer.
One other note: I’m still learning all the specifics of these different terms, but if I understand correctly, a “terrine” is basically the same as a “pâté,” meaning that meat and fat are blended together into a spread. A “mousseline” is very similar, but instead of fat, the meat is blended with cream and egg whites. My recipe here is a very basic fish mousseline with crab and fresh greens folded in to make the terrine.
Cook Time: 30 min. active plus overnight to chill
Special Equipment: an ovenproof container that you can use to mold the terrine. I used a very large mug and it worked just fine.
- 1/2 lb. cod or other neutral flavored white fish
- 1 egg white
- 1/3 c. heavy cream
- 1/3 lb. lump crab meat
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 c. baby braising greens
- 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley + 1 sprig
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Season the water with a pinch of salt. Blanch the greens for 3-4 minutes, then drain and pat dry. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Combine the cod and egg white in a food processor and puree until completely smooth. While the food processor is still running, slowly pour in the cream and puree. Transfer the fish mousseline to a bowl and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. (Since I used very fresh fish and eggs from my hens, I felt totally confident tasting this mixture to adjust the seasonings, even though it was still raw). Gently fold in the parsley, crab, and blanched greens.
Moisten the inside of the terrine mold with a little bit of water. Line it with a piece of saran wrap, pressing the plastic into the edges of the mold. Place a sprig or two of parsley in the bottom of the mold as a garnish. Pack the seafood mixture into the mold, pressing down evenly. Fold the saran wrap over the top.
Put the foil-covered terrine into a casserole dish and add hot tap water into the dish to come halfway up the side of the mold. Bake until the center of the terrine reaches 140 degrees.
Remove the casserole dish and terrine from the oven. Take the terrine mold out of the water bath and remove the tin foil. Place a weight on top of the terrine (I used a full pint jar) and refrigerate overnight.
To serve, simply unwrap the saran wrap from the top of the mold, flip it upside down, and give a gently tug on the saran wrap. The terrine should pop out fairly easily.
PS. If you want to read about a Cook it! project that turned out delicious instead of disgusting, you must head over to Adventures of the Kitchen Ninja and read about Julianne’s first try at making duck prosciutto.