Pressed Chicken Terrine

Adam Robinson, chef/proprietor of the Brackenbury Restaurant in London, first worked for me at L’Escargot leaving there to join the kitchen team at Ma Cuisine, the seminal Seventies restaurant which played a pioneering role in serving simple good food. In its heyday it was not unusual for customers to have to wait for three weeks for a table. Adam returned to work with me at 192 Kensington Park Road, where he taught me the principles of this dish. I have slightly modified it over the years, but it remains essentially the same clean-textured, light yet satisfying first course.

You can ring the changes by substituting blanched leek greens instead of cabbage leaves. If you do, include layers of leek in the terrine as well as for wrapping. The ultimate variation adds layers of fresh foie gras, exchanging half a chicken suprême for an equal weight of duck or goose liver cut into thin escalopes.

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Ingredients

  • 8 chicken suprêmes
  • 18 outer leaves of Savoy cabbage or seasonal greens
  • 170g/6oz butter, chilled in the freezer
  • 8 slices of Parma ham

For the Tomato Compote

  • 6 ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp balsamic or sherry vinegar
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Utensils

  • mallet or heavy meat cleaver
  • 2 identical terrine dishes (non-stick loaf tins are a useful substitute)
  • cling film
  • bain-marie or deep roasting pan foil

Method

Mise en Place

Preheat the oven to 130°C/275°F/gas I • Cut through the chicken joints to remove the wings from the suprêmes. These can be used for another dish like a stir-fry or when making a jus • Destalk the cabbage leaves and blanch them in a large pan of boiling salted water for 2 minutes and refresh in cold water. Drain • Cut the chilled butter into 12 thin slices.

Cooking

One at a time, put the suprêmes between sheets of film and pound them out thinly to make chicken escalopes, using a mallet or the flat of a heavy cleaver.

Line one terrine with the leaves, overlapping them slightly and making sure you have enough leaf hanging over the sides to cover the top when the dish is filled.

Put one layer of chicken on the bottom using two of the pounded suprêmes. Cut and trim to make a snug fit, filling in any gaps with the trimmings. Cover this layer with 2 slices of Parma ham, grind over some black pepper and lay 3 slices of butter on top.

Repeat this procedure three times, ending with ham and butter on the top.

Wrap the leaves over the top to cover. Dot with any remaining butter, then cover with foil. Put into the bain-marie or roasting pan and pour water to come half-way up the sides of the terrine. Place in the oven.

After 1¼ hours, test for doneness by inserting a skewer or sharp pointed knife into the centre of the terrine. When removed, the metal should feel quite hot on the tongue (be careful). If it does not, continue to cook for 10 minutes, then test again. Repeat if necessary. Between testings, sterilize whatever sharp implement . you use in some boiling water.

When satisfied that the terrine is fully cooked, remove from the oven and put to cool for 1 hour. Then weight it to press and firm it up (this makes slicing and serving easier). The best way of doing this is to place another terrine dish of precisely the same size on top and then weight it with about 2kg/4 ¼lb. Use cans to achieve the weight but do not use more than this weight or you will cause all the moisture from the terrine to exude, leaving it dry and unpalatable. If you do not have another identical terrine, then cut a piece of card to the exact internal dimensions of the dish and wrap it in foil. This can then be placed on the top and weighted.

Leave weighted in a cool place until quite cold. Then remove the weights and refrigerate for at least four hours before serving, preferably overnight.

Just before serving make the tomato compote: peel, deseed and dice the tomatoes. Dress with the vinegar, olive oil and a little salt and pepper.

Serving

Run a palette knife gently round the sides of the terrine invert it over a cutting board then tap and shake gently to remove. Cut into slices using the sharpest knife possible. Serve with the tomato compote.

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