Like many other recipes, the foie gras terrine is named for the vessel in which it is cooked. Other examples include the iconic cassoulet, named after the cassole (a tapered clay pot) it is cooked in. And the word casserole is from the French for sauce pan, in which a casserole is assembled and cooked.
Much the same, a foie gras terrine is cooked in a terrine mold, usually a porcelain one with a tightly-fitted lid. A whole, raw foie gras is packed into a terrine mold and cooked at low temperature in a water bath with only a few ingredients: salt, pepper and Sauternes wine. The foie gras is actually steamed in its own juices under the terrine lid.
A tip: nestle the terrine on a folded dish towel in the pan of hot water, so the towel holds the terrine still. After the terrine is fully cooked, the excess fat (foie gras butter – freeze it for later!) is drained off and set aside. This can be poured back on top of the preparation to protect it as it rests in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days while the flavor develops. If you want to try your hand at this classic preparation of foie gras, follow Ariane’s recipe. And to see how it’s made, watch our video of Ariane and Chef Wylie Dufresne preparing foie gras terrine and torchon together.
Eating Foie Gras Terrine
In Gascony, the capital of foie gras in France, the terrine of foie gras is traditionally served cold, still in the terrine mold with serving spoons and a bowl of hot water. The spoons are dipped into the hot water, to cleanly slice through the rich foie gras, which is usually spread in a slice of bread. In the United States, foie gras terrine is more commonly served thinly sliced, on elegant toast points or flaky pastry shells.
A foie gras terrine can be unmolded gently onto a clean cutting board. Run warm water over the outside of the terrine dish to loosen it slightly. For slicing, use a knife that has been dipped in hot water to make clean, perfect slices every time. Remember that foie gras is delicate, so it’s best to handle it with care. Thin slices can be fanned out on a platter for serving.
Serve terrine chilled with slices of crusty peasant breast, toasted brioche, cranberry walnut loaf, and any jam or fruit compote to complement the creamy, fatty flavor. Drink a glass of Sauternes or late-harvest Jurançon, both sweet wines from the Southwest of France.