Duck Variations: Rillettes

I had a brief moment of panic on the morning of the day I was serving the Sixth Annual Birthday Dinner for She Who Must Be Obeyed. What would I serve early arriving guests before the meal began? I couldn’t put out a cheese tray; I was serving a cheese course later in the meal. Ditto for cured meat, that was the first course.

I stressed about it as I retrieved ingredients from the Deep Storage Facility, which is where I noticed the container with five legs of duck confit: I could make rillettes and serve them with slices of toasted baguette. I retrieved two of the legs and a quarter cup of the confit fat, and measured out a quarter cup of the confit jelly. I picked the leg meat off the bone and tore it into pieces.

The preparation couldn’t be easier: I mixed everything together in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment until the mixture took on a creamy texture.

After tasting for seasoning I added pepper but no additional salt (the confit jelly is very salty), then portioned the rillettes into four ramekins, covered them, and kept them in the fridge until needed.

In her essay “Glossary of Words Used By Poorer People” from Social Studies, Fran Lebowitz defines meatloaf as “a gloriously rough kind of paté.” The best description of duck confit rillettes would be “a gloriously gamy kind of chicken salad.” It had a similar texture, but a much stronger flavor. I put out two ramekins, and was lucky to get to taste one serving; our guests liked them that much.

I used to laugh when I watched The French Chef and Julia “just happened” to have a key ingredent waiting in her fridge. Now I’m at the point where I have the same kind of fridge: I “just happened” to have duck confit and confit jelly in my fridge, and was able to turn it into an appetizer in minutes. Problem solved.

And I have two more ramekins waiting for my all-duck charcuterie plate.

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