Potato terrine with Gruyere and garlic
One of the great joys of having a restaurant where your guests place themselves gently in your hands, and allow you to decide what to feed them, is that often you will put a dish before them that they would not choose in a million years if they were ordering from an à la carte menu. A delighted and surprised response becomes all the more special.
This potato terrine is one such dish. It appeared on our menu over the weekend of our local celebration of the potato and such was the response to this unlikely hero that it reappeared the following week, a fate that has befallen no other entree in five years of operation.
There is something strangely light about this potato terrine and it pairs beautifully with the fruit, the leaves, the crunch of the walnuts and the acid of the vinaigrette, with just the right amount of richness from the cream, eggs and cheese. It is the sum of its parts and sits comfortably in “that group” known as the composed salad, a stalwart of French menu construction.
This recipe didn’t start out as a terrine for me, though. When I first started making it, it was layered and baked in a round cake tin. It was a go-to recipe for a posher version of scalloped potato that had the capacity to be sliced into wedges and paired with a meaty main course. There it fulfilled the dutiful post of a slab of carbohydrate with a braised meat or roasted poultry dish, looking handsome because it could be cut and plated nicely.
Sometimes tiny differences change a dish irrevocably in your mind. By slicing the potato thinly with a mandolin, by cooking it in a long terrine tin, changing the balance of crisp outside and soft inside, this potato dish has taken on an almost unbearable lightness of being.
Here the potato can be free of Nietzschean overtones and step away from its subservient role to the protein element on a plate and shine lightly and freely, surprising all who enjoy this delightful little entree.
Potato terrine with Gruyere and garlic
Serves 8, with leftovers
– 1 tbsp butter, softened
– 3 eggs
– 1½ cups pure cream
– 1½ tsp flaked salt
– ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
– ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
– 1.25kg nicola potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 225g Gruyere cheese, grated
– 25ml extra virgin olive oil
– 50ml grapeseed oil
– 25ml sherry vinegar
– 1 pear
– 300g baby salad leaves
– ½ cup walnuts, lightly roasted and salted
Preheat your oven to 180°C.
Grease a 30-centimetre x seven-centimetre x 7.5-centimetre terrine moulding with butter and line it with parchment paper.
Beat the eggs in a bowl, then whisk in the cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Set aside.
Place the potato slices in overlapping rows until the bottom of the dish is completely covered. Sprinkle with a little bit of minced garlic and a handful of grated cheese. Repeat until the layers come about halfway up the side of the dish. Pour half of the cream mixture over the potatoes, alternately lifting the layers with a fork and then pressing them down to ensure the cream gets between all of the layers. Continue layering the potatoes, garlic and cheese until all has been used and you’ve reached the top of the dish. Pour the rest of the cream mixture over the potatoes, once again lifting and pressing on the layers to make sure there are no dry spots.
Cover the dish with aluminium foil and bake for one hour. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the potatoes in the centre of the dish are tender when pierced with a small knife.
Remove the terrine to a wire rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes before inverting it carefully onto a board.
For the salad, mix the oils and vinegar together as a dressing. Thinly slice the pear and toss with the leaves and walnuts. Dress the salad and arrange across eight plates.
Cut the terrine into two-centimetre slices and arrange on top of the salad. There will be leftovers that can be gently warmed in the oven or sliced and pan-fried in a little oil and butter.
2017 Ravensworth riesling, Canberra district ($35) – Carly Lauder, sommelier, du Fermier.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 16, 2018 as "Add terrine to my tally". Subscribe here.