Homemade food gifts are always more appreciated and more personal than wrapping a tin of store-bought cookies or sticking a bow on a bottle of wine or liquor (not that I would turn up my nose to good spirits). But when you make something with your own hands, it speaks to how you feel about the recipient.
These rillettes will say, “I care a lot” because unlike many other speedy 1-2-3 recipes, this one takes time. Not a lot of hands-on time, no – it’s more hands-off. But the result is far superior to Pillsbury slice-and-bake cookies!
Seriously. These rillettes are like a hit of umami but-tah! Spiced, but not overly, with a touch of cognac — just the thing for a toasted crostini and a glass of champagne or your favorite cocktail. And while everyone else is loading you up with fudge and sweets, I think it’s nice to give (and receive) something luxe, even sophisticated — like these rillettes.
I used Chef John’s recipe and modified it slightly based on my own realities — namely, I couldn’t find a 4 1/2 pound duck. Aside from his very approachable and easy-going style, he also does an uber-cool video of how to execute this recipe.
Let’s walk through the steps: Sprinkle spice rub over the duck and inside the cavity. Fill the cavity with the aromatics and seal it all up in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Put it in a 250° oven for 6-7 hours. I know, it’s a l-o-n-g time.
But what you’ll achieve is tender, fall off the bone duck meat, swimming in copious amounts of duck fat and its own savory, gelatinous broth. Let it cool to room temperature – then stick it in the fridge overnight. (See – you probably had about 30 minutes total prep on the first day. No big deal!
After it’s chilled, remove the duck from the congealed fat and broth — scrape off any excess goodness back into the pan. Pull the meat from the duck and save the carcass for a heavenly soup stock (I did – and it’s now in my freezer awaiting inspiration). Scoop the fat and duck “jelly” into a microwavable dish and nuke it for a minute to transform it back into its liquid state. The top inch or two is duck fat! The dark liquid is the broth — you’ll need a bit of both for the rest of the recipe.
Add the cognac, and other ingredients and mix well until it’s fully incorporated. Chef John does this by hand, but I was lazy and used my stand mixer. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
Spoon into half-pint crocks, garnish and seal it with a few tablespoons of — you guessed it — DUCK FAT!
Stick them back in the fridge for several days for the flavors to develop. Trust me on this step it transforms it from “potted-meat” status to sublime.
Wrap them in ribbon and gift them with a sleeve of your favorite crackers and a nice bottle of bubbly. I hope I’m on your Christmas gift list!
Spiced Duck Rillettes
These rillettes are perfect for appetizers with a cocktail or for hostess gifts during the holidays (or both!)
- 1 whole duck about 6 pounds
for spice rub
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 generous teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 heaping teaspoons dried thyme
for the aromatics
- 12 cloves garlic crushed and peeled
- 3- inch knob of fresh ginger don't worry about peeling, sliced into quarter inch pieces
- 3-4 bay leaves
- peel from an orange no white pith
- 1 large bunch of fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
to assemble rillettes
- cold duck meat
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cognac or brandy
- 2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
- 2-3 tablespoons warm duck fat from the duck you've roasted
- 2 tablespoons warm duck stock from the duck you've roasted
- 2 teaspoons parsley chopped
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustarad
- dash of cayenne pepper
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
for (optional) garnish
- additional orange zest
- black pepper
- parsley leaves
- 4-6 ramekins canning jars or other half-pint sized crocks
- Heat oven to 250 degrees.
- In a small bowl mix together the kosher salt, black pepper and dried thyme. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl combine the garlic, ginger, bay leaves, orange peel, thyme and peppercorns. Toss to combine with your hands. Set aside.
- Line a large baking dish with 2 pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil large enough to fully cover the baking dish and allowing for overhang on either side. Place one going the length of the baking dish, the other going the width of the baking dish.
- Place the duck in the foil. Sprinkle the inside of the duck cavity with 1/3 of the spice rub. Sprinkle 1/3 on the back of the duck. With your hands, insert the potpourri fully into the duck cavity. Sprinkle duck breast with the remaining 1/3 of the spice rub. Fold the tin foil over on itself creating a sealed pouch that the duck will cook in.
- Place the duck in the oven and cook for 7 hours, or until the duck meat is easy to pull away from the bones. Note: this low, slow method of cooking will render copious amounts of duck fat and jellied stock and may fill 1/3 of the baking dish. That's what you want.
- Keep the duck, fat and stock in the baking dish and let the duck cool to room temperature, then place it in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
- The next day, remove the duck from the fat and jelly -- scraping any fat and jelly remnants back into the foil. Discard the aromatics. Remove the flesh from the duck and place it in a large bowl (or if you have one, the bowl of a stand mixer). (Save the bones and some of the skin to make a stock). Set aside.
- With a spoon, scoop all of the duck fat and jellied consommé into a microwavable dish. Heat in the microwave for one minute until it returns to a liquid state. Place a fine mesh strainer over a large glass measuring cup and pour the duck liquids through the strainer. Discard the solids and set aside the duck liquids. (The fat will float to the top and the duck broth will settle on the bottom).
- To the duck meat add the cognac, softened butter, parsley, orange zest, dijon mustard and cayenne pepper. With a spoon, skim 2-3 tablespoons of duck fat off the top of the liquids collected in the measuring cup and add to the duck meat. Dunk the spoon deeper into the measuring cup and add two tablespoons of the broth to the duck meat.
- If using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on a low speed until meat breaks apart and is incorporated with the other ingredients.
- If mixing by hand, use a wooden spoon and work the meat mixture into the other ingredients, until it's a fairly smooth consistency and all the ingredients are well combined.
- Fill half-cup ramekins or canning jars with the duck mixture. Smooth the tops with the back of a spoon.
- If using a garnish, add it now and seal the rillettes with 1-2 tablespoons of duck fat. Cover and refrigerate. For several days and up to a week for the flavors to marry.
- Serve with crackers or crostini and a cocktail!
Crazy as it sounds -- my six pound duck yielded 4 half-pint crocks.
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