Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Saved by the Rillettes

One could never be more re-assured than when one has a good stock of potted meat up one's sleeve (or at the bottom of one's fridge, more likely).

If not servicing an ad hoc luncheon, gathered at one end of the kitchen table, or a late-evening fire side snack, a rillette will happily lye in wait for your next unexpected canapé party, drinks reception or amuse bouche. It is sure to satisfy all but the most salad-frenzied of guests.

Beware at this time of year of being without a jar of potted something-or-other at your disposal – you could come a cropper.

Duck rillettes

Duck, pork and rabbit, in my mind are the classics, but there's no reason why you shouldn't try it with boar, mutton, or game. Adjust the cooking times and accompanying spices accordingly.

for a healthy jarful
4 duck legs
lots of coarse see salt
a dozen juniper berries, crushed
coarse ground black pepper
a bunch of thyme
bay leaves
a good quantity of duck fat
a dash brandy
a few more sprigs thyme, leaves picked and very finely chopped
a pinch mace
a pinch allspice
a pinch of finely ground juniper berry
finely ground black pepper
orange zest

First, salt the meat to cure it add flavour. Mix the salt with the juniper berries and coarse ground black pepper and sprinkle a layer on the bottom of a plastic container. Lay the duck legs flesh side down on the salt, and pack the remainder of the salt mix, along with thyme and bay leaves.

The next day, remove the legs from the salt and rub off any excess. Transfer to a roasting dish. Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C. Gently melt some duck fat in a pan, and pour over the duck fat – it needs to virtually cover the legs entirely. Cover with some parchment, and cook in the oven for at least two hours. Four if your schedule allows. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Remove the legs from their fatty encasing, and separate the meat from the bones, skin and fat. In a suitably sized bowl, use two forks to shred the meat into very thin strips. Mix in the thyme, spices, orange zest and brandy, forking through a little of the fat for good measure as you go. Check the seasoning – it's unlikely to need more salt, but more spice may be required. Pack into a seal-top jar, and cover with a layer of duck fat – the mix will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge, or longer in a sterilised jar.

When the time comes, break open a baguette, of the crunchy, thick-crusted variety, upon a bottle of something bold and red, and tuck in.

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