Latvian Hare Trio, Part 3: Hare Cheese, Onion Jam, Cornichons

This curious dish — which has very little to do with actual cheese — was actually what first motivated me to start my Latvian Hare Trio. The final result may look like a traditional pâté, but the preparation is quite different. Lesley Chamberlain’s Food and Cooking of Russia and Pokhlebkin’s Cookbook of the Soviet Peoples both contain fairly similar instructions: take a hare, roast it, braise it, grind it, then cook an omelette, grind it, and mix everything together with mushrooms and butter before baking in a dish, optionally wrapped in pastry.

I found that the result of this procedure had an unpleasantly dry mouthfeel, so I made several changes to improve it. In particular, cooking the leg meat as a confit was a big improvement, and it made little sense to use the precious hare loins. I also got rid of the bizarre ground omelette and used raw eggs to bind the forcemeat like a normal person. Finally, the onion jam and cornichons bring welcome touches of sweetness and acidity.

Latvian Hare Cheese

Crust
Yields 4 servings

1 egg
1.5 oz butter, softened
1.5 oz ricotta
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 oz flour, sifted
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, mix the egg, butter, and ricotta. Add the baking powder, salt, and half of the flour, and beat on low speed until homogeneous. Mix in the other half of the flour, and beat for one more minute.
  • Cover and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
Hare cheese
Yields 4 servings

hare leg confit (see here)
0.4 g (about 1/8 tsp) caraway seeds
leaves from 1 thyme sprig
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 oz ricotta
2 oz butter, melted
1/2 tsp cognac
1 tsp porcini powder
crust
egg wash (1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 oz water)

  • Pour the contents of the hare leg confit sous-vide pouch(es) into a bowl.Shred the meat between your fingers, keeping large pieces, and discard the bones. Measure 9.5 oz meat and 1 oz cooking liquid (ideally the juices, not the fat), and transfer to a bowl. The rest of the meat is used in the second part of my hare trio. The cooking liquid can be refrigerated to separate the juices from the fat.
  • Add the caraway, thyme, eggs, ricotta, butter, cognac, and porcini powder to the bowl, then combine with a fork. Process the mixture in a meat grinder using the small die, and reserve.
  • Roll the crust dough into a 9″ x 12″ rectangle to line a terrine mold, plus a 4.5″ x 6.5″ rectangle to cover the top. Of course, the exact dimensions depend on your vessel — I’m using a 4.5″ x 6.5″, 32 fl. oz terrine mold.
  • Line the bottom of the mold with parchment paper, then position the large rectangle of dough so that it covers the bottom and the sides. Fill with the hare mixture, pack well, then cover with the other rectangle of dough and tuck the edges into the mold. Carve out a chimney in the middle with the tip of a knife, and brush all over with the egg wash. 
  • Bake the hare cheese in a 450 F oven for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 F, then bake for about 8 minutes more, until golden brown. Remove from the heat, and let cool. I recommend serving when still very slightly warm. If served cold, pour some of the hare confit juices (separated from the fat) through the chimney to fill in the gap between the meat and the crust. 

Plating
Yields about 4 servings

hare cheese
16 cornichons
4 tbsp spring onion and garlic jam (recipe here)

  • Cut the hare cheese into 8 slices.
  • On each plate, serve 2 slices with 4 cornichons and 1 tbsp onion jam.

Latvian Hare Cheese


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