North African-Inspired Chicken Terrine
So this friend of mine gave me this incredible book on terrines from the Phaidon bookstore in Soho which has a stunning array of recipes for different ways to make terrines. The book was truly inspirational, and, for some reason, my mind immediately went to this tasty, Moroccan pie I had a few years ago in Marrakech. It’s called bastilla or even pastilla, I’ve seen, and it’s traditionally a layered pie of pigeon with egg curd and sugary, cinnamon almonds all wrapped in a phyllo dough-like pastry. A sweet and savoury pie of sorts that I thought would be fantastic as a terrine.
I spend so much time cooking for my husband – it causes me to trend towards manly food. I.e. generally meaty, possibly in casserole form (he will take down with zeal anything layered in a casserole dish..) with some heavily starchy side. I envisioned this dish for a girls’ brunch alongside a lightly dressed salad, and, true to form, every woman that’s eaten this has raved. As a woman, sometimes (a lot of times…) I walk out of the house in an outfit that specifically women will appreciate. This is my culinary version of that.
And I believe this incarnation of pastilla is an elegant one. The pillowy puff pastry gives way to sweet, cinnamon-y crunchy almonds and then gently spiced, buttery minced chicken. This is a great do ahead dish – I’ve actually travelled with the terrine as is (which also happens to be great cold) and when I get to a friends house, I wrap it up in puff pastry, throw it in the oven, and voilá! 20 minutes later the perfect compliment to a great bottle of wine and some cheese or even an elegant main dish. Subtle, complex, surprising, textural, sweet and savoury all at the same time. Enjoy!
Yields (1) 12” x 4” Terrine
¾ cups marcona almonds
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsps unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 medium-sized leek, white and light green only, thinly sliced
¼ fennel bulb, finely chopped
¼ tsp grated ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground allspice
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 dry bay leaf, crushed
1 pinch saffron
¼ tsp lemon zest
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into ½” cubes
½ cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed per package insructions
1 egg beaten with a little water or heavy cream (egg wash)
Confectioners sugar (for dusting)
Preheat oven to 250° F. Place almonds on a sheet pan and let toast in the oven for 50 minutes. Cooking at a lower temperature for a longer period of time allows the nuts to toast all of the way through, not just on the outside. Remove and cool. Pulse in a food processor with sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
Turn oven temperature up to 350° F. In a medium-sized skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add shallots, leek, fennel and ginger and cook until softened (3 to 5 minutes). Add all of the ground spices, the crushed bay leaf, the saffron and the lemon zest and continue to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and let cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Set aside mixture to cool.
In a food processor, add cubed chicken thighs and eggs and process until just a little chunky and transfer to a bowl. I prefer a slightly chunky texture – feel free to process to a paste if you want a smoother consistency. Add cream and the cooled shallot/leek mixture.
Line a terrine mold with plastic wrap so that the longer pieces of plastic wrap hang over the shorter sides of the mold. Create a layer on the bottom with half of the almond mixture. Add the entire chicken mixture and top with the other half of the almond mixture.
Overlap the plastic wrap across the top to cover the terrine completely. Cover with a lid and place in a roasting pan or other baking dish. Add boiling water until it comes halfway up the sides of the terrine mold and bake for 1 hour. Remove from water bath and roasting pan and refrigerate. Cool completely to unmold. You can stop at this point in the recipe and serve the terrine either warm or cold – it’s delicious eiher way.
For those who want the extra decadence of the pastry, preheat the oven to 400° F. Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Place the cooled terrine top side down on the puff pastry. Fold over to make a package of sorts and seal with a little water. Flip over and transfer to a sheet pan.
Brush the egg wash over the exposed pastry and bake for 15 to 25 minutes to brown. Dust with a little powdered sugar – slice, serve, and enjoy.