11 April 2011

Rillettes, with a caveat

I finished making the rillettes de lapin, the rabbit rillettes, that I posted about a couple of days ago. Rillettes are slow-cooked meats like pork, rabbit, or duck that is shredded and packed in pots or a terrine with a little rendered pork or duck fat to bind the shreds together.

A slice of cold rillettes de lapin — "potted rabbit"

Pressing the shredded meat into a loaf pan or other rectangular dish makes it possible to cut the rillettes into slices for serving. You have to let the rillettes cool down completely in the refrigerator before you can cut slices, the way you would cut slices of pâté. It would be good to weight the rillettes down with a brick or another dish to press them into a solid mass, but it's not absolutely necessary.

Rabbit rillettes, still warm, packed into a clear loaf pan

I feel like I need to issue one warning about making rillettes the way I have described. The process of preparing the meat for cooking calls for marinating it in coarse salt for 24 hours before cooking it. The idea is to then rinse the rabbit pieces under running water and cook them very slowly in, for example, duck or goose fat, along with the liquid released by the  rabbit pieces as they marinated. Then you pour some of the duck or goose fat and some of the cooked marinade over the shredded meat and stir it all together while it is still warm.

Rillettes pressed into a loaf pan for cooling...

Well, that marinade is very salty, especially if you've boiled it down and concentrated it. Use it sparingly — a little bit goes a long way. When you're making rillettes, pâtés, or other preparations that you plan to serve cold, you need to over-salt them slightly. At low temperatures, the food can taste bland unless you add plenty of salt. However, too much salt is never good. Better to taste as you go to make sure. At the point where you combine meat and marinade, everything is completely cooked, after all.

...and then slicing

You don't have to serve these rillettes cold, of course. They are basically lean meat. You can combine them with cooked onions or other vegetables — carrots, mushrooms, peas — and make a kind of shepherd's pie — un hachis parmentier in French — with them. You can serve them quickly sautéed with vegetables as a meat sauce for pasta. The rillettes can be chopped up a little more finely and go into a soup like minestrone or bean soup.

A serving of cold rillettes calls for
some cornichons or olives

I think I have to go start making lunch. Carrots, onions, mushrooms, shredded rabbit, bow-tie pasta...


  1. I didn't have my breakfast yet and looking at those pictures... I'm starved!

    I shouldn't read your blog first thing in the morning.

    Have you ever tried your blog on guests as appetizer, with the right wine of course? Le blog-apéro!

  2. à votre santé, mes blog-amis!

    Your rillettes are wonderful, Ken! That comes from first hand tummy knowledge.

  3. the rillettes look wonderful--especially as I have just come home from work feeling in need of an apero and snack :-) Antoinette

  4. That doesn't even look close to the rillettes I had in Toulouse. I wonder what I had?

  5. Ken, please could you tell me where you got the clear loaf tin? Is it a Pyrex item? Thanks.
    The rillettes look great.... and I'm absolutely starving! I've got to get one of those plastic covers for keyboards....

    The WV is "manthol"... mints for the real man?

  6. Hello Tim, those clear Pyrex loaf pans came with us from the States. But I think I've seen similar pans for sale here at SuperU or elsewhere -- couldn't swear to it though. I have a couple of newer (1970s?) Pyrex pans and a couple of older ones, one Pyrex + one of the Fire King brand. All say Made in U.S.A. on the bottom.

    Starman, industrially made rillettes have a lot more fat in them than I put in. And if they're pork rillettes, the meat is reddish or pink rather than white.

    Antoinette, Evelyn, and CHM, :^)

  7. Ken,

    I'm planning on making rillettes de lapin this weekend. One question I have is what is the ratio of duck fat to stock? I have 9 oz of duck fat, do you think that is enough to do a rillettes? My Mathio cookbook show equal portions of pork to lard.


  8. Craig, if you want the rabbit to be confit, you need mostly duck or goose fat with just a little broth. But I've also made rillettes by cooking the rabbit pieces in broth and wine. Around here, pork rillettes are often cooked with some Vouvray wine. The important thing is to have enough duck fat or lard at the end to mix in with the shredded meat and make it all stick together when it cools in the refrigerator.

  9. It's been a while since I've visited your blog...I'm delighted to see you're still at it. It's SO relaxing after a long day to settle in and read a little about your magical life! Thanks for all the hours you must spend uploading photos and organizing these lovely vignettes for us!

    p.s. thanks for the pronunciation lesson on "rillettes." Now, can you give us one on "Saint-Aignan?"


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