Rillettes are a spread made of salted meat slowly cooked in fat, first mentioned in 15th century cookbooks and more famously in Rabelais’ Pantagruel in the 16th century. Although they were originally made from pork, duck and goose have also become fairly common, and many other meats can be used.
I chose wild pheasant today to satisfy my never-ending wintry game cravings. You can substitute it with partridge, grouse, or any other game bird you can get your hands on. If you prefer to (or have to) use farmed pheasant, guinea hen or chicken, I have another recipe for you! You can also find a great recipe for duck or goose rillettes here.
The rillettes can easily be kept for a couple of weeks.
Wild pheasant rillettes
Yields 1 ramequin
1 wild pheasant, about 1 1/4 lb
black pepper, ground
4 thyme sprigs
8 oz duck fat
- Cut the wings, legs and breast off the pheasant carcass. Weigh these pieces [I got about 12 1/2 oz], and then measure 1.6% of that weight in kosher salt. Sprinkle the salt together with some black pepper on both sides of the meat, then transfer to a sous-vide pouch with the thyme and the duck fat. Cook in a 166 F water bath for 8 hours. If you like a gamier flavor, you can add the chopped carcass, heart and liver.
- Let the pouch cool for 30 minutes. Strain the fat and juices into a plastic container and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes, until just set. Discard the carcass if you used it. Bone the wings and legs, and reserve in the pouch with the breast meat.
- Remove the skin from the meat and reserve both. You should have about 6 oz of boneless, skinless meat at this point. Measure 58% of this weight in duck fat, and 30% in jelly [the solidified juice] — for 6 oz of meat that’s 3 1/2 oz duck fat and 1 3/4 oz jelly.
- In a blender, process the duck fat, jelly and skin (as well as the heart and liver if you used them) until smooth.
- Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment. Shred the meat between your fingers and add to the bowl. Whip on high speed to the desired texture. I like my rillettes on the smooth side, with very few chunks; some people prefer large chunks and will whip the mixture just long enough to distribute the meat. Transfer to a 12 oz ramequin, pack well, then cover with a thin layer of duck fat. Refrigerate until solid, then wrap in plastic film.
- Take out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving. Accompany with bread and pickles.