March 8, 2014

Chocolate Terrine with Creme Anglaise and Pistachios

I really admire Thomas Keller. I enjoyed reading about him in The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman, how he was not formally trained and yet has so much knowledge and incredibly high standards for cooking and his restaurants. He's dedicated to best practices and everything being absolutely perfect, nothing half-done or incidental. That was certainly the message I got when we were lucky enough to go to the French Laundry, and it is reinforced each of the few times I have made one of the recipes in his gorgeous books. The recipes look somewhat overwhelming at first glance. But they are not necessarily hard; he is just detailed and tells you precisely how to do it right. There are places where you can cut corners (like when I didn't sift my cocoa and confectioner's sugar for this, and it worked out, but I probably should have), but he doesn't want you to. It's like he has faith that you can do it right if you just try and commit to doing so.
I made this beautiful dessert perfection from Bouchon cookbook for Gordie's birthday dinner last year and again for a family birthday gathering last month. Our go-to favorite rich chocolate dessert in the past has always been Lora Brody's bete noir. But this chocolate terrine with creme anglaise immediately stole that title for me. It is chocolate deliciousness at its best and the texture is part of why it's so divine-- mousse-like and cool, yet dense enough to be sliceable. 

But the creme anglaise is worthy of a post unto itself. It is, unsurprisingly, the perfect pairing with the terrine. When I first made it last year, I was worried it would go to waste because it looked like it made a fair amount and I commented that we'd have to make sure we found a way to use it up. But I ended up bringing it over to the table so we could add extra spoonfuls of it to our plates to go with every bite of terrine. Keller says that creme anglaise could be an ice cream base, a dessert sauce base, or simply as a sauce on its own as it is here. It is perfect as is. 

The pistachios that his recipe calls for are, again, the perfect thing for this. But when I made it last I'd forgotten to buy them so we substituted almonds. The almonds were fine, but not The Perfect Complement. Had I not had it previously with the salty green pistachios I would have been none the wiser about missing that detail.

Sorry for the surplus of photos... I found the whole process so pretty, it was hard to leave any out.
And for the creme anglaise...

Chocolate Terrine with Creme Anglaise and Pistachios
from Bouchon cookbook, Thomas Keller

(serves 10 - 12)
canola oil
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
8 1/2 oz. unsalted butter (2 sticks plus 1 T)
8 large egg yolks
4 large egg whites
1 1/3 C confectioner's sugar
1/3 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 C plus 1 T heavy cream
2 t granulated sugar
1 C shelled salted pistachios for garnish (or other nuts, such as almonds, but the pistachios are perfect in taste and appearance-wise)

Lightly oil a 12x4x3-inch terrine mold (or loaf pan); the oil will anchor the plastic wrap. Line the terrine with plastic wrap and set aside. 

Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

When the chocolate feels just warm to the touch, stir in the 8 egg yolks until well combined. Stir confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder into the chocolate mixture (Keller calls for sifting them in, if you want it to be an especially refined texture). 

With an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks; refrigerate while you beat the egg whites. With clean beaters, beat the egg whites and granulated sugar in large mixing bowl until soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the whipped cream. Pour into the terrine mold/loaf pan and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 12 hours. 

(I made this only several hours ahead last time and it worked great to put it in the fridge for a while then in the freezer for a bit to speed things along.) (Keller says terrine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; we enjoyed our leftover slices for a week.)

Creme Anglaise
(Makes about 2 cups-- I'd consider doubling this if you really are serving 10 - 12 people which the terrine will serve. The sauce is so perfect and an essential part of this dessert and it doesn't go nearly as far as the terrine itself.)
1 C heavy cream
1 C milk
7 T sugar (1/4 C plus 3 T)
1 vanilla bean, split
5 large egg yolks

Combine cream, milk, and 4 T sugar in a large nonreactive saucepan. Scrape seeds from half the vanilla bean and add them, along with the pod, to the pan. (Reserve remaining half of vanilla bean for another use.) Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let flavors infuse for 30 minutes. 

Place a metal bowl over an ice bath (I used my metal mixing bowl). Reheat the cream mixture until warm. 

Meanwhile, whisk the yolks with remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl until the mixture thickens and lightens in color (doesn't take a lot of whisking). Whisking constantly, gradually pour about one-third of the hot cream mixture into the yolks to temper them. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden or heatproof spoon, for about 10 minutes, or until the custard has thickened and coats the back of the spoon. (Run your finger through the custard on the spoon: the line you make should remain.) 

Pour the custard into the metal bowl and stir occasionally until it has cooled. 

Strain the cooled custard into a bowl or other container and refrigerate for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. (The custard will keep, refrigerated, for several days.)

To Serve
Pour 2 to 3 tablespoons creme anglaise into the center of each serving plate. To cut the terrine, hold a long-bladed knife under hot water to heat the blade, then wipe dry with a towel. Slice terrine into 1/4- to 3/8-inch-thick slices (rewarm knife blade as necessary) and arrange two slices on each plate. 

Chop some of the pistachios and sprinkle over the creme anglaise and around the terrine. Garnish terrine slices with 3 whole pistachios.

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