I do understand that I’m supposed to be ‘taking the challenge home’ weekly with this online endeavor, but I had a bit of a nag in my cooking plans this time around; I was spending the week in Vancouver, on, more or less, a ‘working’ vacation. Which begged the question: Where was I going to cook?
I debated trying to find out where one of the Real Housewives of Vancouver lived and sneaking into their kitchen, but was unsure as to whether or not I’d be arrested.
Finally, I decided it would be best safer to reach out to a Top Chef Canada alumni instead.
If anyone could help me make this week’s assigned dish, David’s Chicken Noodle Soup Terrine, it would probably be Chef Dale Mackay. Does that name sound familiar? It should. Dale took home the title of Canada’s ‘Top Chef’ in last year’s inaugural season of Top Chef Canada.
Since the season ended last summer, he has opened up two popular establishments, Ensemble and Ensemble Tap, in downtown Vancouver.
Luckily for me, Dale was able to take some time out of his busy schedule to help me tackle this terrine. We met up Thursday morning at the Granville Island Market to pick up some ingredients for the challenge. This public market is always one of my favourite places to stop by while visiting Vancouver. With tons of fresh produce, seafood and specialty items as far as the eye can see; it’s pretty easy to spend a lot of money here. Quickly.
After stocking up on the necessary items, and sampling some fresh apples, we headed back to Ensemble to start prepping the dish in the kitchen. It was only midday, but the Ensemble kitchen team was in full swing prepping for their evening service. Being behind the scenes, so to speak, at a restaurant like this always reminds me how much work goes into the dishes that are served to us as diners in an establishment.
I had never made terrine before, but knew it involved gelatin, meat and shoving things into a mould. What better way to learn than working with a Top Chef Canada winner, right?
We started off by roasting the chicken thighs, and cooking off some chopped onions and garlic. While all of that was in the works, Dale had me soak the sheets of gelatin in cold water to reconstitute them. We then whisked the sheets into some hot chicken stock until they fully dissolved. Part of the gelatin mixture was put in the fridge to cool and set and the rest we kept warm to combine with rest of the ‘soup’ components.
David’s original terrine listed ‘pearl pasta’ as a dish component. The most comparable item I could find at the market was Israeli couscous, which is, essentially, just jumbo-sized couscous. After boiling it, we tossed it in some herb oil and spinach puree. It became a vibrant green and, voila, a pearl pasta was born.
The assembly was relatively simple. After the terrine had chilled and set, we sliced a nice round piece off, topped with the chicken broth jelly, a spoonful of the green couscous mixture, carrots, celery and a crispy piece of chicken skin. It did embody the essence of chicken noodle soup and came out surprisingly tasty. I could never see it being a hit on a regular restaurant menu, but you never know!
I can’t thank Dale enough for helping me sort this dish out. Maybe I’ll start turning all kinds of things into terrines! The sky’s the limit folks! Also, just to address it…I suppose it may have technically been ‘cheating’ in my challenge to enlist Dale Mackay’s help and utilise his restaurant kitchen, but let’s just chalk this one up to me being out of town and resourceful, ok?
This coming week I’ll be in Ottawa, so who knows where I'll be...
Chicken Noodle Soup Terrine
What you’ll need…
• 8 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin on)
• 1 yellow onion (finely chopped)
• 2 cloves garlic (minced)
• 2 cups chicken broth
• 8 gelatin sheets
• ½ cup parsley (loosely chopped)
• 1 cup Israeli couscous (cooked)
• ¼ cup cooked spinach (pureed)
• 1 carrot (cut into matchsticks, blanched)
• 1 celery stalk (cut into matchsticks, blanched)
• salt and pepper
• olive oil
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Season the chicken thighs liberally with salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast in the oven until completely cooked through and skin is starting to crisp up, about 40 minutes. In a medium-sized pan, sautee the onion and garlic until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside for now.
Next, bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a small pot on the stove. Soak the gelatin sheets in a ice water bath for a few minutes until they become reconstituted. Remove from water and squeeze out any excess liquid. Remove the broth from heat and whisk in the gelatin until fully dissolved. Pour approximately one cup of the broth into a small baking dish and place into the refrigerator to cool and set. Keep the remaining broth warm on the stove.
Once the chicken is cooked and has cooled slightly, take off the skin. Place the skin back onto a roasting pan and cook until dark brown and extra crispy, another 15 minutes or so. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and finely chop. Place into a large bowl with the cooked onion, garlic and parsley. Get a second bowl and fill with approximately 1” of water and some ice cubes and place the bowl with the chicken mixture on top. While mixing with a spoon or spatula, Slowly pour in the warm chicken broth/gelatin mixture into the bowl until it everything starts to thicken up.
Press mixture into a mould (a small loaf pan will do) or form into a cylinder-esque shape and roll tightly in plastic wrap. (Note: Using a mould is much easier!). Let the terrine cool in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Terrine should be cold and firm to the touch before being ready to cut into.
While you’re waiting, season the couscous with some salt and pepper and toss in the spinach puree. Set aside until you’re ready to plate.
Cut a slice of terrine, top with a thin layer of the chicken broth jelly, followed by some of the couscous mixture, a few pieces of the blanched vegetables and, lasty, some crispy chicken skin…Enjoy…?
Total prep time…4 hours
Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.
by Dan Clapson