Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Strawberry and Champagne Terrine

When I first saw this recipe, I had some flashbacks to a trip I took to Paris almost 20 years ago. I went with a group of friends from college, and on our final night there, we went to a very nice restaurant and ordered the prix fixe. One of the courses was a slice of terrine, and honestly? It looked like someone had chewed a mouthful of dog food, olives, boysenberries, and mulch, then vomited it into a puddle of gelatin, shaped it in a mold and sliced it up and put it on my plate. It looked terrible and tasted even worse. I won't even go into what it smelled like. You can come up with that on your own because I'm thinkin' we need to change the subject pronto and talk about how fantastic this dish was, and how it changed my mind about the notion of something called terrine!

This dessert was an absolute PLEASURE to make! I went to the beach this past weekend and picked up fresh strawberries on the way home (New Jersey, represent!). They were early berries and a bit small, but really sweet and delicious, so I was really psyched to be able to use them in this dish. I'm not much of a champagne drinker, but I had a bottle in my fridge that someone gave me as a gift for a dinner party, so I was happy to be able to use that, as well. Let's get started...

The first thing I did was hull the strawberries and let them rest overnight. This dries them out a bit and intensifies the flavor. The next day, I puréed them, then strained the purée into a bowl:

While this was straining, I soaked two sets of gelatin sheets in two separate bowls -- one for the strawberry layer of the terrine, and one for the champagne layer.

I sqeezed the water from the gelatin and put it in a saucepan to dissolve:

I added some superfine (of course, I have to pronounce it "SOOPA-fine" when I'm using it) sugar to the purée, then added it to the saucepan with the gelatin to make it one happy mixture:

While that sat around on the stove, I brought a cup or so of champagne to a boil, skimmed off the scum that rose to the top, then added in the other set of soaked-then-squeezed gelatin sheets and let them dissolve in the champagne mixture:

Now, it's time to start the layering of the terrine. First in? A layer of strawberry gelatin:

I put it in the fridge to solidify, then added a layer of champagne gelatin, which was followed by another layer of strawberry gelatin and so on and so forth until it looked like this:

In all, the process of layering and solidifying five layers of the terrine, one-by-one only took about 3 hours. While I waited for my guests to arrive for their dessert, I whipped the crème fraîche and picked some small mint leaves from my neighbor's herb garden (thanks, Linda!) for the garnish. The French Laundry Cookbook suggests using a #12 melon baller to scoop out teeny-tiny strawberry balls, out of which I could create an eency-weency strawberry using a miniscule mint leaf. I opted to go another way and instead hulled some of the remaining strawberries, halved them, then laid them on the plate with the mint leaves as the faux strawberry stem/leaf.

Here's the final plating:

It was as delicious as it was beautiful. And, much like the Strawberry Shortcakes, I'd make this again, and use different fruit each time. I think peaches would be especially tasty, as would blackberries. The combination of strawberry and champagne was really nice and they complimented one another well, and a little bit of crème fraîche with each bite added a nice richness and a sort of warmth, if that makes sense. Bravo, strawberry terrine. I shall make thee again.

Up Next: Verjus Sorbet with Poached Peaches (I found verjus; thanks to everyone who emailed me with sources -- you guys rock.)

Brands Used:
Strawberries from a farmstand just outside Woodstown, NJ
Crème Fraîche from Vermont Butter and Cheese
Henri Abelé champagne
Gelatin sheets from King Arthur Flour

Music to Cook By: Tom Waits; assorted on my iPod. I've always been a Tom Waits fan, but recently was inspired to listen to him again. What an incredible songwriter... there's nothing like "I Never Talk to Strangers," "Martha" and "Emotional Weather Report."


pdxblogmommy said...

OK, that looks really lovely and makes me wait with baited breath for the delicious Oregon strawberries we're about to receive in boat loads out here.

And I remember that "terrine" and also remember feeling stunned about how awful it looked. I don't believe I even lifted my fork for that one.

Thank goodness we weren't turned off by French cooking on that trip. It would have been easy.

And I was about to tell you that you're shirking your DG duties (it's been a week!) but since you've been busy here I've decided not to hound you.

Unknown said...

That looks lovely. I made a terrine once a long time ago with champagne and fresh fruit and mint, it took so long for it to set up I was about to give up, but kept going at it. For that I had to use gelatin powder as I couldn't find the sheets anywhere. But now that I see you can order them from King Arthur I will have to have another go at it.

Anonymous said...

Nice! I once made a (lazy) version of this and liked it. I decreased the sugar so that I could use some Gewurztraminer that was languishing in my fridge, and just made two layers in a bowl. I hadn't thought to try different pureed fruit... Sounds like a great idea, given my peach addiction.

And I also like grapefruit/citrus terrines, packed full of the segments.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! I love the translucence of the Champagne layer,but I'm most impressed by the butter in the fridge shot(drool).

Anonymous said...

This looks really good -- I love strawberries, so maybe I'll try this. It sounds totally doable, thanks to you walking us all through it!

wellunderstood said...

incredible! can't wait to try this!