A tureen is an often misunderstood dish. The term is often used to describe pie when in fact it is something else entirely. In addition, the culinary word has two meanings: a terrine refers both to the dish in which it is baked and to the dish itself.
Two meanings of one tureen
The tureen as a cooking vessel is a deep, rectangular shape with straight sides – usually made of ceramic, glass or cast iron – with a tight-fitting lid. In traditional cuisine, the tureen dish is often prepared in the shape of an animal, which usually represents the contents of the tureen.
The second meaning of terrine is the actual food that is cooked or served in these containers. The food consists of loaf-shaped layers of meat or fish and may even sometimes include vegetables, served cold either in the tureen in which it was cooked or sliced. The beauty of making terrines is their ability to offer everything from a simple, rustic affair with humble meat to elaborate haute cuisine featuring game, foie gras and truffles. The limitation is only in the imagination of the chef.
To confuse the issue a bit, a pie can be part of a tureen as one of the layers, adding nice dimension through the smooth texture contrasting with the tureen's coarser textures.
Origins of a Terrine
The literal translation of terrine in French is a “big clay pot”. The English derivation of the word is I was; a word that is still used today to describe a saucepan.
The origin of the cooked dish is undoubtedly in the French, masters of the tureen. Carefully layering different flavors and textures, precise seasoning and gentle cooking can spoil quickly in the wrong hands, but in the skilled hands of a French chef it is an art form.
Difference between a pie and a terrine
A terrine is something completely different from pâté, suggesting how different they are in translation from the French word pie becomes “paste” in English.
Pâtés (pastes) are more commonly smooth, light, and made primarily, but not exclusively, from duck or chicken liver. They can be prepared with fish, vegetables, beans or legumes.
A traditional terrine, on the other hand, is an entirely different cooking method that produces a hearty, chunky, textured dish and can include one to several types of heavily flavored meat or seafood. The ingredients of a terrine are often layered with a filling of chopped, spiced, seasoned meat or fish that acts as a glue for the different layers.
How terrines and pies are prepared
The ingredients of a pie are often quickly pan-cooked and processed to a silky consistency by pureeing or whipping.
A terrine differs in that it is cooked in a bain-marie, resulting in a moist, flavorful dish that is served either in its container or sliced with matching accompaniments such as salads, pickles, and bread. It can be so rich that it's almost a meal in its own right.
Popular ingredients in a tureen
By far the best and most popular ingredients for a tureen are venison and pork. Beef doesn't do as well because the meat is too dense. The same goes for chicken, as it needs plenty of it to have an effect and needs to be infused with strong spices to add flavor.
Tender cuts of wildfowl, venison, wild boar, rabbit, and hare work so well because they have a clear, distinct flavor, can be cooked quickly, and their flavor strength doesn't diminish, but instead continues to develop after cooking. This meat also lends itself very well to spices such as juniper, mace, allspice and a few hearty splashes of port or brandy, all adding to the deliciousness of the tureen.
The main cuts of meat are almost always ground pork, sausage meat, or a mixture of pork and veal, which provides extra moisture and cushions the tureen.
Fresh breadcrumbs are often not added to the mass, but to soak up the fat given off by the meat. An egg also acts as a binder, preventing the terrine from falling apart after cooking.
A terrine can also consist of fish and seafood, even vegetables, but these too must have a distinct flavor and require careful use of herbs and spices to keep the terrine shape from becoming boring. For vegetable terrines, roasting or grilling the vegetables before using them in the terrine is another great way to add rich flavors and extra texture to the dish.
How terrine is served
There are two main ways a terrine can be served. Most often, after complete cooling, it is cut into thick slices. The savory slices are served with pickles or gherkins with some chutney or relish, crusty bread and butter. Sometimes the terrine is served in its saucepan with a knife to allow the guest to lift pieces out and spread them on the bread. However you decide to serve your terrine, we're sure you'll love coming back!