Any small game, furred or feathered, may replace the rabbit in this recipe—with glorious results. The ham, although still welcomed by wild rabbit, pheasant, partridge, or wild duck, no longer plays an essential supporting role in relation to those flavors, all more distinctive than that of domesticated rabbit, and it could be replaced by a supplement of pork, veal, or the primary element. Rabbits have large livers; terrines made of game birds or duck need the addition of a couple of chicken livers.
Of domesticated breeds of ducks, the barbary duck or one of the sterile hybrids is the most interesting. Our dependence on freezers has all but wiped out, on the American market, any competition to the depressingly fat, deep-frozen Long Island ducks. They are, happily, serviceable in the fabrication of a terrine: All of the fat is contained in the skin itself or, loose, in the abdomen; the flesh is lean, but, once the skin has been peeled off and discarded, there is not much of it. Two ducks should be used to replace the rabbit in this recipe, the breasts being cut up, the legs and flesh scrapings chopped for the forcemeat, and the carcasses converted into a stock. The livers of deep-frozen Long Island ducks have an inexplicably strong and acrid taste and should be discarded, only chicken livers being used in the forcemeat.
The marination of game or duck is a question of personal taste; the bland flavor of domesticated rabbit can ill do without it, but I, personally, prefer not to marinate meats of more pronounced character. Any of these terrines will gain in depth by the addition of cut-up truffles or chopped truffle peelings. They should either be marinated with the meats or mixed with the basic forcemeat (eggs and Cognac added later) and refrigerated overnight, covered by plastic, to permit the maximum penetration of their perfume before cooking. If they are conserved, add their liquid to the stock while reducing it.
This recipe will fill 2 quart-sized terrines and will provide about 20 servings—or, perhaps, a great deal less if the guests are left to their own devices.
Make an incision the length of the rabbit’s back to each side of the spinal ridge and carefully remove the filets (the elongated muscles stretching from the beginning of the rib cage to the tail), loosening them with a sharp paring knife, following closely the contours of the vertebrae. Remove the filets mignons (much smaller corresponding muscles clinging to the inside of the spinal column). Detach the tender, fleshy white meat from the bones of the hind legs. Cut the filets crosswise into slices of from ⅓ to ½ inch thick and cut the meat from the legs into similar-sized pieces. Mix well with the elements of the marinade and leave, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove the remaining flesh (except for the neck and the head) from the bones, scraping with a knife, and put it aside, along with the heart, liver, and lungs, to be chopped. Break or cut up the carcass and add it, along with the head, the neck, and the rinds, to the water, bring slowly to a boil, skim off the foam, add all the other ingredients, and cook, the lid slightly ajar, at a bare simmer, for from 2½ to 3 hours. Strain the liquid, leave it to settle, carefully skim off the fat, bring back to a boil, and, keeping the saucepan a bit to the side of the flame so that a light boil continues only at one side of the surface, remove the fatty skin that forms, drawing it to the far side with a tablespoon; repeat this action several times over a period of 20 minutes or so. Turn the flame high and reduce rapidly, stirring, and, at a halfway point, transfer to your smallest saucepan. Reduce until the stock has passed the foamy boil and begins to make slurry sounds, the body noticeably thick and sticky. A scant half cup should remain.
Pound the garlic to a purée in the mortar, mix with the breadcrumbs, pour over the boiling stock and work to a thick sticky paste with the pestle.
Parboil the pistachios for a couple of minutes, rub them vigorously in a towel to loosen the skins, peel and chop them coarsely.
Combine all of the elements of the forcemeat and mix thoroughly with your hands, squeezing the mixture through your fingers. Then add the pieces of rabbit meat and continue to mix and squeeze . . .
Line the sides and bottoms of the terrines with the sheets of fat pork, pressing them firmly, fill with the mixture and tap the bottom of each terrine, smartly, two or three times against a wooden table top (or other surface softened by a couple of layers of towel) to be certain that the contents are well settled. Place one or two bay leaves on the surface of each, gently press a sheet of fat pork over all, cover, and cook in a bain-marie (the terrine placed in a larger receptacle—a cake tin, for instance—which is filled with boiling water so as to immerse the terrines by about two thirds) in a 325° to 350° oven, counting 1½ to 1¾ hours. The terrines are done when the center is firm to the touch and when, if pierced by a trussing needle, the juice that appears is completely transparent.
Remove the lids, place boards cut to the inside dimensions on each surface with approximately 1½ pounds of weight on each. Juices may run over the sides, so it is best to place the terrines in a shallow container while cooling. Allow to cool completely—several hours or overnight—before removing the weights and, unless the terrines are to be consumed within two or three days, pour a layer of melted lard over the surface of each, return the lids, and refrigerate. The flavor will improve if they are left for at least three or four days and, protected by the layer of lard, one may be kept, uncut, for a couple of weeks.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.