Terrine: Architecture of a One-Dish Meal

Cooking often requires a design sensibility, skillfully balancing various weights, textures, and colors to determine the composition and presentation of a dish. Few recipes yield a more architectural outcome than a terrine—the many-layered mélange of ingredients compressed into a mold made for slicing. Like a casserole, "terrine" is the word for both the lidded crockery and the food it contains. Making a terrine is a feat of gastroengineering, and eating one is a lesson in materials and construction.


One of our favorite publishing houses, Phaidon, released a cookbook—which is as much a book of photography and a true feast for the eyes—dedicated to the legendary log, appropriately titled Terrine. The author, Stéphane Reynaud, is a French chef and author of another cookbook, Pork & Sons. This book follows in the meaty tradition of the first, with many recipes that involve offal and wild game. Like a stucco house, the meaty dishes tend to have monochromatic facades, with thick pinkish-beige slabs forming the frame and foundation.

The more visually interesting—and perhaps more modern, since vegetarianism and the bright colors of farm fresh produce are decidedly current, at least stylistically—are the recipes in the Vegetables and Desserts sections. One of my favorites is the Minestrone Terrine, which looks like a castle or fortress, surrounded by cylindrical towers of asparagus. Zucchini, peas, fava beans, and basil form the chambers inside the spring vegetable spires. I also love the gelatinous Strawberry and Fresh Mint Terrine, a cross-section of which resembles the architectural glass Livinglass that has various organic materials pressed between the panes.

If you long to introduce your inner Julia Child to your inner Norman Foster, this book might be a great way to break the ice. You can get it here.

All images © Copyright Charlotte Lascève

Smoked Halibut Terrine

Image courtesy of Charlotte Lascève .

Strawberry Terrine by Stephanie Reynaud

Strawberry and Fresh Mint Terrine

Image courtesy of Charlotte Lascève .

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