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Fasterchef

August 7, 2011

Every year, at about this time, friends and acquaintances begin encouraging me to apply for Masterchef Australia. Aside from the fact that this is largely due to a kind and flattering overestimation of my culinary skills, it is also due to an overestimation of the show’s aims. Masterchef does not seek to uncover Australia’s best amateur cook (though it has revealed many wonderful cooks over its three years of production); it seeks to uncover Australia’s best, fastest and most entertaining amateur cook. I can cook. I can also be entertaining (though not always on demand). But the baffling speed and agility required would certainly be my downfall.

Never was this more evident than this week, when I planned a picnic with my new friend Ana the Greek, a local journalist, food writer and extraordinary home cook. Our get-togethers are an excuse for foodie indulgence; to try recipes we’ve never tried before, and savour fine ingredients. We decided to split the cooking along sweet and savoury lines. Much to my relief Ana chose dessert (an excuse to use some of her recently acquired supply of Valrhona chocolate). That left me to ponder savoury options. I joked that I would prepare the Maggie Beer ‘chook and pork terrine’ wrapped in chicken skin that had sent all four remaining Masterchef contestants into elimination the night before. She joked that she would be disappointed if I didn’t.

Epic fail

Jokes aside, I browsed cookbooks and recipes online, but I couldn’t get past the idea of a terrine, the perfect picnic food, a compact and easily transportable explosion of flavour, texture and protein. Not only this, I couldn’t get past the idea of that terrine, with its abundance of herbs and citrus flavours and mouth-watering combination of fresh and cured meats. I decided that I would do it. My debut terrine would be the one that brought Masterchef’s top four competitors down. While they only had 2 hours and 15 minutes to prepare the terrine and fixins’ however, I would give myself the whole night. Surely it couldn’t take any longer than that?

Maggie Beer’s Chook and Pork Terrine

½ cup Raisins
¼ cup Verjuice
1 x 1.85kg Free range chicken
525g ‘Black Pig’ pork belly, skinless with a good amount of fat
120g ‘Black Pig’ belly bacon, rindless
120g Free range chicken livers, connective tissue removed
Zest of 2 Lemons
Zest of 1 Orange
2 tablespoons Lemon thyme, stripped and chopped
3 tablespoons Flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons Rosemary, roughly chopped
100g Fresh walnut bread, crumbed
16g Sea salt
2 teaspoons Freshly ground white pepper
3 Bay leaves

Preheat a fan forced oven to 200°C.

Place the raisins and verjuice into a small saucepan and place over a medium heat. Once the verjuice has come to simmering point, remove from the heat, place a lid on top of the saucepan and set aside, allowing the raisins to steep and plump up.

To bone out the chicken, remove the wings at the middle joint, then cut all the way down the back bone so that the chicken is now butterflied out.
Remove the back bone and rib cage, then continue your knife down to remove and cut away the breast and wish bone.

Chop the knuckles from the legs, then bone out each of the legs removing as many of the tendons as possible. Feel for any bones or gristle that may be have missed and cut these out.

Carefully remove all the meat from the skin, taking care not to pierce the skin. Dice the chicken breast into approximately 2cm cubes, place into a mixing bowl and set aside.

Dice the chicken thigh and leg meat and pork belly into approx 1 cm pieces and place into another mixing bowl. Cut the belly bacon into small strips and add this to the chicken and pork mix along with the livers, mix these together well and then place into a food processor and blend for 2 minutes to create a farce, remove from the food processor and place back into the mixing bowl. Add the lemon and orange zest, thyme, parsley, rosemary, walnut bread crumbs, the verjuice steeping liquid from the raisins, sea salt and freshly ground white pepper, mix together well and set aside.

Grease a 1 litre terrine and then place the 3 bay leaves on the base of the mould then line the mould with the skin from the chicken, place 1/3 of the farce on the base then ½ half of the chicken breast and ½ of the raisins, then another 1/3 of the farce then the remaining amount of chicken breast and raisins then top off with the remaining amount of the farce (press gently down to pack in tight). Retain any left over farce in fridge.

Now fold in both ends of the chicken skin, then fold over the two sides to create a neat looking parcel.
Place sheet of baking paper on top of the terrine then cover with foil and seal well.

Place a cloth into the base of a hot water bath, place the terrine into the water bath and put into the preheated oven and cook for 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes (this time will depend on your oven and the temperature of the chicken meat) or until the internal temperature has reached 57°C, remove from the oven and allow the terrine to rest in the water bath for 15 minutes until the internal temperature has reached 65°C. The magic temperature is 65-66°C finished internal temperature.

Pour off any juices from the terrine and place into fridge to chill with a weight on top.

DAY 1

So, I had decided to embark on my very own “Masterchef journey”. My first challenge, unfortunately not having ready access to the Masterchef pantry, was to source the ingredients, some of which proved to be exotic by Grafton standards (Me – “Do you have any chicken livers?” Butcher – “Nuh.”; Bi-lo checkout-chick – “What’s this?” Me – “…a cucumber”).

I then went about prepping the ingredients for the terrine. As any good Masterchef knows, mis en place is the key to kitchen success. Prepping, prepping, and more prepping. Chopping, grating, whizzing, greasing, creating the variety of different textures in the dish. I’m not going to lie to you, this process took me over an hour . By this stage, I pretty much would have been eliminated. Which led to an important realisation: the contestants on Masterchef didn’t prep their ingredients. They can’t have. I mean, I’m no Cadel Evans, but I have zested one or two lemons in my time, and preparing everything and getting the terrine in the oven within half an hour as expected of the contestants, would have been UNPOSSIBLE! Not to worry, chefs have apprentices to do all that stuff anyhow.

The most challenging element, sorry ‘alamant’, of the preparation was the deboning and de-skinning of the chicken, something that is somewhat challenging if you’ve never done it before. It was this “pressure point” that became the make or break element of the dish on Masterchef – would they be able to do it in the 3.2 minutes provided? Would the skin have any holes in it? (Well yes, actually, because a chicken has wings and legs.) Honestly, it isn’t that hard to debone and skin a chicken. Anyone with a working knowledge of the anatomy of a chicken and a sharp knife could do it. It just takes a long time if you’ve never done it before, which is fairly reasonable considering how rarely you see the words ‘1 chicken, skin only’ in recipes. Also, it’s kind of gross (warning to those who are squeamish abut handling meat). Happily for me, time was on my side.

Once everything had been prepped, it was a breeze of assembling the dish. Aside from worrying that my chicken skin wouldn’t be big enough to encase all of the mixture, it was a doddle. It’s really just putting stuff in a tin and then other stuff on top of that stuff. Soon enough I was able to pop it in the oven. Time check. Including the time I spent washing up and cleaning down as I went, periodically checking Facebook and watching the Sopranos (appropriate viewing while dismembering a chicken), it took me about 4 hours from scratch to oven. OK, so by this time I’m a massive loser, but it’s worth noting that I do possess one of the other desirable Masterchef attributes: I am a perfectionist control freak. So yeah, it took me a while.

I cooked the terrine until the internal thermometer said stop, then I rested it until the thermometer said stop again, aware that this was the point where Michael, Dani, Kate and Alana met their downfall, the glistening skins of their terrines concealing the worst of culinary sins – pink chicken meat. It’s tempting to cut into the terrine to check whether it is cooked at this point, but you can’t; instead you have to spend a sleepless night wondering and/or dreaming about it. You see, the next step in the terrine process is refrigeration. This is why I was confused when Matt Preston chastised his contestants for their undercooked meatloaves, asking Gary and George whether they would have sent that out at their restaurants. Well, n0, but no self-respecting chef would have cooked a terrine to order you ninny, they would have cooked it that morning, or preferably two days ago. And if it was undercooked, they wouldn’t have taken it out of the oven because of some arbitrary time limit. DER!

At this point, you’re probably thinking, but what about all the fixins? Well, you’re right. Frankly, there’s so much cleaning up to do, one doesn’t really have time for fixins’. And so they would wait ’til the morrow. And with that, I went to bed, 6 hours after this journey had begun.

DAY 2

I awoke early, after little sleep, on the day of the picnic. There was much to do! First was the walnut flatbread. Reading the recipe, I thought good, this will be a cinch, because compared to the complexity of the terrine it read like cooking two-minute noodles. Needless to say, it wasn’t quite that simple. And yet, for this novice breadmaker, it was simple enough. Within an hour or so, I was pulling beautifully golden ovals out of the oven, dusted with salt and fennel seeds. The flavour was a revelation. The bread may even have been the highlight of the completed dish. Success!

I also whipped up a batch of bread and butter pickles, a la Maggie Beer. To be honest, I was disappointed with their flavour, which didn’t have the sweet/sour punch I like in a pickle. But I would be putting it up on the plate, and that’s the most important thing!

With just a couple of hours until our picnic, the moment of truth: the time had come to turn out the terrine and slice it. SUCCESS! I couldn’t believe how perfect it looked, shining on the wooden board like a jewel-encrusted pate. Tasting, it was incredibly dense, salty and texturally diverse, with hints of thyme, rosemary and bay. I had done it! I could hardly believe that everything had come together. With a total preparation and cooking time of 9 hours, I had long ago lost the challenge, but I had learned much about the magic of television. In the end, I’d rather take my sweet time and savour the process of cooking, not to mention eating. And so the journey continued…

Terrine and fixins'

Nice slice

The picnic table, Strontian Park, Great Marlow

Lunch

Invention test: Ana's chocolate torte with strawberries and cream, strawberry pop rocks, tuile

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Emma in Sydney permalink
    August 7, 2011 17:01

    I want to be at that picnic!

    Interesting to see a great cook that I trust to tell the truth try one of these recipes. I always thought they couldn’t be doing all the prep themselves. Besides, if they did, they’d have a knife in their hand when that annoying guy is shouting at them that they are about to fail, be eliminated and die of shame, and someone would have to shiv him. Right? Well, I would.

    The flatbread looks amazing. I might have to try that — it’s more in my league. I made this weekend’s SMH magazine’s lamb stew with cinnamon for tonight — shaping up rather well, I might say. I’ll let you know how it eats.

  2. August 7, 2011 17:50

    I sincerely hope there is still just one small slice left to pass to me on Tuesday morning. Congratulations on meeting your challenge, you were so excited in anticipation on Friday, and what a perfect Sunday we had, the weather must have been especially for you in recognition of your amazing effort. Well done. I actually ventured in to the kitchen today which is extremely rare and manager to whip up Hazelnut & Chocolate Friands and chocolate muffins for the crew at bcu tomorrow, just need a nice dollop of double cream and some rasberry coulis. Sharron

  3. August 7, 2011 17:51

    I’ve often wondered how I’d go doing a Masterchef pressure test recipe at home in the time limit. I loved reading your experience. Wise of you to ignore the time constraint though.

  4. Kristin permalink
    August 7, 2011 18:01

    Clever girl, I’d never have the patience to do that, or proba le the stomach for the whole chicken evisceration thing. looks delicious!

  5. August 7, 2011 18:56

    Gosh, that looks AMAZEBALLS.

  6. August 7, 2011 22:44

    Well done Flick. You certainly picked a glorious Grafton weekend for your picnic. I want the full blow by blow, er…mouthful by scrumptious mouthful account this week. Ana’s torte and strawbs look divine but I’m not too sure about the strawberry pop rocks tuile.

  7. August 8, 2011 09:02

    What an EPIC picnic! Fabulous terrine – love cooking something out of the ordinary… a sense of accomplishment, and the noms that follow 🙂 Well done!

  8. August 18, 2011 08:13

    I just lost the ability to function after seeing your walnut bread.

  9. August 28, 2011 23:45

    Ok – I know you are friends with my cousin – but hey – can you invite us BOTH to a picnic.

    John

    And just one questionj – did you name the blog after the Go Betweens Song?

  10. September 1, 2011 15:44

    Wow, I’ve been missing you on twitter but if that is how you are spending your time, bravo! That terrine looks divine. I want to go and have a picnic right now:)

  11. thelittleredhen permalink
    May 28, 2012 21:19

    Holy cow-that’s quite impressive. I really want some of that bread too.

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