The November Cook it! 2012 Challenge: Seafood Terrine

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.

So.  I made the terrine.  And?seafood terrine

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.

Seafood Terrine

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.

Ingredients:

  • 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. 

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Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! I hope that all of you are happy and warm, celebrating whatever holiday you like in whatever way makes you happy, even if it’s just a big party to keep December from getting too dark and cold.

Black Dog Farm Christmas Dinner Menu

Baked Crab Dip

__________

Roast Ham with peach jam & mustard glaze

Scalloped Rainbow Potatoes

Baby lettuces with blue cheese and walnuts

_________

Pumpkin Pie

Cookies & Candy

Peanut Brittle

Chocolate Jam Thumbprints

Almond-Scented Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Pecan Toffee

UPDATE 12/26:

The scalloped potatoes were so epic and delicious yesterday that I had to come back here and share the recipe.  When I was making them, I was thinking to myself, “this much heavy cream? should i really do this? and cheese and butter too? um…. gross” but then when I ate a bite of that brown, bubbly potato masterpiece…. the stars aligned and I had a revelation.  The clouds parted, and  Paula Deen came and spoke to me and told me to spread the gospel of saturated fats.

Make this right now, before New Year’s Resolutions, because it is definitely not low fat or anything along those lines.  The potatoes will not cleanse out your system and you will not feel recharged.

If you have a bunch of friends and family with you, though, maybe for a really special occasion, you’re guaranteed to have a table full of grinning, happy people reaching for more potatoes.

The Best Scalloped Potatoes In The Whole Entire Universe

Serves: 10

Cook Time: 2 hrs., add 1/2 an hour if you’re drinking wine with friends in the kitchen while you cook

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. of assorted potatoes: russets, red-skinned, yukon gold, etc.
  • 4 large shallots
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 tbs. butter
  • optional: 1 slice of bacon
  • 4 big sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh sage
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 2 pints of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 c. shaved parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz. swiss cheese, grated or cut into very thin slices
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the potatoes into very thin rounds.  Cut the shallots and the red onion in half, then cut each half into very thin slices. Mince the rosemary and sage leaves.

Heat 2 tbs. butter in a saute pan on medium heat, and add in the shallots, onion, rosemary, sage, and nutmeg.*  Saute the onions and shallots for about 10 minutes, or until they’re nicely softened and starting to caramelize.  Season the onion mixture with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Grease a casserole dish with the remaining butter.  Make one layer of potato slices, slightly overlapping each other.  On top of this first layer, sprinkle some sea salt, black pepper, swiss cheese, fresh thyme leaves (removed from the stems), and shaved parmesan.  Spread about 1/3 of the onion mixture over the top of the potatoes.  Continue this process, alternating the layer of potato slices with the herbs, cheese, onions, salt and pepper, to make two more layers of potatoes.  Make sure that the very top of the casserole has a layer of the herbs and cheese.  Pour the heavy cream over the top of the casserole.  Wrap the dish in tin foil and put it in the oven for about 1 hours and 15 minutes.  After about 50 minutes, lift the foil and check the casserole: once the cream is mostly absorbed, remove the foil and let it cook for another 20-30 minutes, or until it’s bubbly and golden brown on top.

Note:  My cooking times are vague because, well, my oven is a piece of junk and I’m bad at checking a clock.  The casserole is done when it’s bubbly, you’ll know when you look at it.

*At this point, if you really want to have a heart attack, you could add in some chopped up raw bacon. You don’t necessarily have to, though.

Instead of a picture of the finished scalloped potatoes, here’s a picture of our friend’s dog looking all sweet by the fire, because we ate the casserole long before I could think about photographing it.

Chocolate Jam Thumbprint Cookies

I made cookies!

I’m a horrible baker. I can’t follow a recipe for the life of me, and I don’t own a timer. Simple instructions like “bake for 7-9 minutes” are virtually impossible for me to complete.  I never preheat the oven long enough, and I always decide to change an ingredient part way through and end up ruining the recipe.  I don’t know why.  I like making soups, stews, roasts and braises where the instructions are more along the lines of “put in as many carrots as you want, and if there are other vegetables that make you have warm fuzzy feelings, put those in too.”

Shockingly enough, I figured it out this time.  This is an adaptation of one of my favorite cookies that my mom makes every year.  It’s the same chocolate butter cookie dough, but her version tops each cookie with a half of one of those bright red candied cherries.  They’re delicious, and I love those cherries, Red #5 be damned.  I have about four hundred half-used jars of jam in my fridge, though, so I thought it might be nice to turn them into jam thumbprint cookies.

I’m giving myself an extra pat on the back for making these even though my kitchen aid mixer is fried right now.  I felt like a pilgrim actually creaming together butter and sugar using good old-fashioned elbow grease.  It was horrible, and I hope I can fix the mixer soon and go back to flipping a switch. The chocolate butter dough is so rich and delicious, and far superior to all of the usual thumbprint cookies floating around out there, if I do say so myself.  When I decided to post this recipe, I called up my mom and asked her where she originally found it.  She dug out the original clipping from the closet, and I’m proud to say that it was from a Land O’Lakes ad in a Sunset Magazine.  This recipe here looks pretty much the same, but has slightly different measurements. Chocolate Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Makes: 20-36 1″ balls, depending how good you are at measuring

Cook Time: 25 min.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks of softened butter
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 c. raspberry jam or orange marmalade (I wanted to use marmalade but I also wanted to use up the raspberry jam. I think that marmalade would be even better).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cream together butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (doing it by hand blows, don’t do it unless you have to).  Add in the egg yolk and keep mixing on medium speed.  Slowly add in the flour and cocoa powder.  Mix until everything is combined and the dough comes together.  Form into one inch balls and arrange on a greased cookie sheet.  Use your thumb to make a small indentation on each of the cookies.  Bake for 4 minutes. Remove the  tray of cookies from the oven and put a small dollop of jam or marmalade in each of the indentations (not too much or it will melt all over the place and burn). Cook for about 4 more minutes.  Be careful not to overcook them; they should be slightly moist and fudgy in the middle, not crunchy and dry like some of mine.

My cookies also look like a kindergartener made them.  My mom’s always look all perfect and smooth, and mine are lopsided and cracked.  I’m confident that these flaws are because of my lack of skill at baking, and not because there’s any problems with the recipe.

Happy Holidays!

P.S. Making eggs for breakfast when there’s perfectly good cookies sitting right out on the counter would just be . . . wasteful.

Marlborough Pie

I’m still laid up with a busted ankle today.  Hopefully this is the last day of this, but I’m still going stir-crazy in a motel room in town.  I’m going to try heading back to the farm tomorrow, but I’m not totally sure how it’s going to work.  I grudgingly let a bunch of boys come and watch the 49ers game on the motel tv since the other option seemed like it wouldn’t go over very well (which was this: “… but how am I supposed to sit in bed and feel sorry for myself if I have a bunch of laughing, happy people around?”)

I finally unwrapped my foot this morning and poked it a little bit, which was exciting. It’s a nice blue-ish gray, a shade that might be called Weathered New England Beach House, and still pretty puffy . Other than poking at my foot, the only other productive activity I can think of is writing more blog posts.  I’ve already replied to e-mails and looked at new recipes and ordered some supplies for holiday craft projects…   I think writing about pie is a reasonable next step.
Anyway, this is such a delicious pie recipe that despite the fact that all of these pictures are old, from the Days Before The Blog, I’m going to share it.  I’m sure I’ll make it again this fall and update these pictures with something newer and fancier.

Marlborough Pie is a traditional recipe from New England. It may not look like much at all in the above picture, but it’s one of the best pies I’ve ever eaten. I heard a dude on NPR do a program about regional apple pies and  he said Marlborough Pie was his favorite.  The crust can be either a traditional pate brisee or puff pastry, and the filling is this wonderfully luscious and sophisticated, slightly lemony apple custard. It’s a perfect way to use home-canned apple sauce and fresh eggs to make a wonderful fall dessert.   It’s somehow rich and light tasting at the same time, and you could serve it after a big holiday meal without sending everyone spiraling into food comas.

My family has been eating this pie for as long as I can remember.  We used to go to Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts every Thanksgiving, a fantastically nerdy family vacation.  Looking back, it was actually pretty fun.  I remember the crisp November air while we walked to all these different houses and watched “costumed historians” do reenactments of Thanksgiving dinners from the 1800’s.  As an eight year old, I was always super annoyed that the actors were eating turkey and pie while I was walking around in the cold.

Eight Year Old Me: “Hey Lady, lemme have some of that pie.”

Grownup: “No.”

Later in the evening, though, we would go to the big restaurant in the village and have a wonderful dinner.  Another traditional New England dessert we’d have was Indian Pudding, which looks like a bowl of gross brown schlop, but is actually this steamy spiced molasses and cornmeal custard served with vanilla ice cream.  Everyone should also be eating this, it’s delicious.  As a child, I really thought our Sturbridge trips were so dorky and annoying, but as an adult, I think it’s pretty great that my parents took us there so many times.

Marlborough Pie

Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t call it Apple Custard Tart or something so it doesn’t remind me of cigarettes.

Serves: 8

Cook Time: around 2 hours, including baking time

Ingredients:

One single 9″ Pie Crust: Use whichever recipe is your favorite, or click here for instructions from Martha (please note that this recipe is for a double pie crust, not a single pie crust, so split it in half).

For the Custard Filling:

  • 3/4 c. unsweetened applesauce*
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • juice and zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3 fresh eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1/4 c. sherry (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, lemon zest. Gradually beat in the eggs, lemon juice, applesauce, sherry, and heavy cream and ginger.

Lay out the pie crust in a 9″ pie dish. Pour in the custard filling.  Put the pie in the oven for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.  Reduce heat to 350 and cook for 45 more minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

This pie will set much better if you let it cool  and don’t serve it piping hot out of the oven.

*I use a chunky gravenstein applesauce from our pantry for this, but if you want to have a perfectly smooth custard you can puree the applesauce first or even run it through a chinois to take out any clumps.  I like leaving it chunky and calling it rustic.