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Cooking with Rillettes


Rillettes (pronounced Re-Yet with no S) is a French potted meat used mainly as a bread spread. The most common types of meat going into a rillettes are goose (rillettes d’oie), duck (rillettes de canard) and pork (rillettes de porc). Back in the old days, before there was electricity or refrigeration, this was one of the best ways to preserve meat without altering its texture or adding a lot of preservatives. Some people call it the peasant’s pâté since it costs a lot less than pâté de foie.   

To make rillettes, raw meat is salted and simmered with some herbs at low temperatures in lard (from the same animal) for a long time, sometimes as much as a whole day. Some recipes call for braising in stock instead of lard, but those are not the real deal. As the meat falls apart, the bones are removed. When the cooking is done the meat is strained, raked with a fork to shred it,  then allowed to cool in jars or pots. After the strained liquid is cooled, any congealed gelatine is mixed back into the meat with some of the lard. Each jar is then topped off with a thin layer of lard to the brim and sealed by placing a piece of wax paper on the lard. The meat is ready for consumption after aging for a few days in the fridge. The final product is a meat spread which contains very tender meat suspended in a matrix of lard and other natural juices. After you open a jar, you can keep it in the fridge for several weeks before it goes off. 

The purpose of this post is to tell you how to cook with rillettes, not how to cook rillettes. One of the easiest ways to cook with rillettes is to spread it on fingers of brioche (or any other kind of thick soft bread) and then toast them in a toaster oven or grill. The fat melts into the bread infusing it with flavour, and you end up with a nice meaty crust on top. I normally serve these delicious fingers of bread as hos d’oeuvres or as a matching side to duck or chicken dishes.

Rillettes can be used to sautee various types of vegetables. The natural oil and flavour of the rillettes is all you need to for the job although you may wish to add crushed garlic and pepper. For this purpose I usually use the rillettes that comes in a huge tub which you buy in scoops at the meat counter. These are cooked in the traditional farmhouse style and have a higher fat content. Have a look at my Sauteed Mushrooms recipe as a reference.

One other way you can use rillettes is in the making of meaty ragout pasta sauces. You can avoid the tedious task of simmering meat for a long time and still end up with a wholesome sauce of nice tender meat. The pre-shredded meat also sticks readily to pasta because it is of the right size. I usually use the rillettes that come in small jars on the shelf for making sauces, as they tend to have less fat. Have a look at my Duck Ragu Pasta recipe for further details.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in French, Ingredients, Poultry

 

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Mushrooms Sauteed in Rillette


(serves 6)
This recipe is just what its name suggests, mushrooms sauteed in rillette. Some recipes use chicken stock and/or white wine to add flavour. Thats all well and good since plain sauteed mushrooms taste…. plain. The problem with stock and wine of course is they contain a lot of water which you always try to avoid when sauteeing mushrooms. This recipe sidesteps the additional water by using rillette and cognac.
 

Ingredients

  1. Mushrooms (200g)
  2. Duck Rillette (100g)
  3. Garlic (6 cloves = 1/2 bulb)
  4. Thyme
  5. Cognac

Preparation 

  1. It doesn’t really matter what kind of musrooms you use as long as they are not too small. I usually just use plain brown or white mushrooms.
  2. Cut the mushrooms into slices which are 1/3 inch thick.
  3. Put enough garlic through a garlic press to get 3t of crushed garlic.
  4. In a large pan, heat the rillette on high heat until the fat melts. You should mash any clumps of meat with a wooden spatula.
  5. When the pan is really hot, add the mushrooms. Stir the mushrooms every minute or so and turn the heat down to medium after 3 minutes and add the garlic, followed by a good stir. Do not cover as you want the water from the mushrooms to evapourate.
  6. At around the 7 minute mark, the mushrooms should have shrunk nicely. Sprinkle in 1t of chopped thyme and 1T of cognac. Turn the heat down further and continue sauteeing for a final minute.
  7. After the fire is off, sprinkle on 1t of black pepper. Add salt a pinch at a time til the taste is just right. You may even wish to avoid salt altogether depending on how salty your rillette is.

Notes

  • There are three main ways to use sauteed mushrooms. As a side vegetable, as a topping for steaks and burgers, or as a flavouring ingredient of a salad.
  • Having more than 200g of mushrooms per pan will leave insufficient room for contact to the pan, and insufficient room for water to evaporate. If you are cooking an amount that is larger than specified, do so in batches.
  • If your mushrooms are dirty, wipe them with a damp cloth. Since sauteeing is basically a drying process, washing in water will make the mushrooms too wet since water will be trapped in the gills under the caps.
  • Yes can try pork or goose rillette as alternatives. For more information on rillette, refer to this post.
 
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Posted by on November 13, 2011 in French, Poultry, Recipe, Salad

 

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Duck Ragu with Pappardelle


(serves 3)
This is my abridged method of making Pappardelle with Duck Ragu. I bypass the ardous task of slow-cooking the duck by using shredded meat from duck rillette and substituting beef stock in as the base. Other than a ragu with smaller pieces of meat, its little different from what you’d expect from cooking it the traditional way.  One added benefit of not using a whole duck is that you can make the ragu in smaller manageable amounts.
 
Ingredients
  1. Duck Rillette (200g)
  2. Mixed Mushrooms (200g)
  3. Onion (0.5)
  4. Pappardelle (250g)
  5. Oxo Beef Cube (1.5)
  6. Red Wine (0.5 cup)
  7. Rosemary
  8. Tarragon
  9. Nutmeg

Preparation

  1. Add one and a half oxo cubes and 2t of rosemary to one cup of boiling water and set aside so the rosemary can infuse the stock with its flavour.
  2. Dice half an onion into very small pieces. Cut the big mushrooms, if there are any, into slices. I usually use one small and one large variety of mushroom but that’s up to you. Beech, Chanterelle, Morel and Oyster mushrooms are good options.
  3. Fry the onion bits on low heat in a pan with some olive oil. When the onion starts to soften, add the duck rillette. As the rillette softens, break it up with a spatula and then add the mushrooms.
  4. When the mushrooms begin to shrink, pour the oxo stock into the pan through a strainer to filter out the rosemary. Add half a cup of wine, 0.5t of nutmeg and 1t of tarragon, and simmer under low heat. Use a full bodied red wine if you can. When the sauce thickens, turn the heat off. You have your Ragu sauce. 
  5. Boil your pappardelle in a seperate pot of water with some olive oil and a pinch of salt. Decant when the pasta softens. If you can’t get pappardelle, use another flat pasta like fettucine or tagliatelle, or look at my lasagne solution in the notes below.
  6. Add the semi-cooked pasta to the ragu sauce. Gently stir fry on low heat after adding 3T olive oil, until the pasta is al dente. Add a bit of water if the sauce begins to dry up too much.
  7. There should be no need to add salt, sugar or any seasoning, but you can sprinkle on some black pepper before serving if you wish.

Notes

The Ragu Sauce is done when it has been reduced like this
  • This is the most simplified version of this recipe. If you want to go the extra mile and get a more distinctive ragu dish, there are three things you can try.  
  • Firstly, you can try using some dried porcini. Use the water you soaked the porcini in to make the stock instead of plain boiling water, but remember that the porcini should be soaked cold.
  • Secondly, you can also substitute Marsala wine for the red wine.
  • Thridly, you can use goose instead of duck rillette.
  • Fresh pappardelle is not easy to come by and I can’t say I have ever seen any dried ones. The way out is to use dried (un-crimped) lasagne. Break them by hand lengthwise into two and you get instant pappardelle. They won’t break evenly, which is even better as this gives a rustic charm to your dish.
  • Ragu and Ragout are both a dish made from gamey meat and chopped vegetables. Ragu is Italian and is usually cooked as a sauce. Ragout is French and is usually a stew.
 
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Posted by on September 5, 2010 in Italian, Main Courses, Pasta, Poultry, Recipe

 

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