Tuna & Sweetcorn Rillettes

  • Time: 1 hour
  • Serves: 4
  • Level: medium

Rillettes are normally associated with rabbit or pork and rely on slow cooking and plenty of fat. This tuna and sweetcorn version cooks the ingredients as a confit, swapping olive oil and butter for the fat.

 

These rillettes are similar to potting tuna & sweetcorn or a making a pate of the combo. Whatever you call then, you have all the great flavours of tuna in sweetcorn in handy jar that keeps for days.

What you need

200g fresh tuna

100ml white wine

1 cob of fresh corn (kernels removed) or 160g of corn tinned or frozen kernels

2 bay leaves

1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme

1 tsp green peppercorns in brine

100ml extra virgin olive oil

100ml light olive oil

100ml unsalted butter

Juice of half a lemon

Grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

2 x 200ml preserving jars, sterilised in boiling water.

Baguette, cornichons and lemon to serve

 



Dad's Recipe Tales

The Allure of Rillettes

Rilletes, those little jars of potted tender fatty meat, were once the guarded secret of the gourmand and well-travelled foodie. Only they knew of their rustic French origins and isolated availability on the tables of Relais Routiers in France, or particular brasseries and French restaurants in the UK. I do not consider myself a gourmand or a travelled foodie, but with my library of food encyclopaedias, cookbooks and food writings, I was familiar with rillettes in the days before they became commonplace on gastro pub menus and supermarket shelves.

Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking mentions them, she understood that although some meat was best enjoyed without preserving as rillettes, the ‘potting’ did lend leftover goose, rabbit or pork a fine flavour. Richard Olney, another Francophile, recommends making terrines from ‘furry creatures’, which sounds a lot like making rillettes from rabbits. The Roux family have always espoused their love of the classic French repertoire and never been afraid to fill their books with complex and time-consuming potted recipes of terrines, pates and rillettes, made from all types of creatures, including fish.

Although I never made rillettes, I was quite familiar with the concept of slow cooking meat: the obsession with temperature; the patience needed to denature meat and connecting tissues into unctuous shredded fibres and collagen; and the sloshing pans full of hot rich fat, which stubbornly adhered to clothes, utensils and kitchen counters – all necessary to achieve the distinctive tastes of confit duck, rillettes de lapin, terrine de porc.

With this background, I was duty bound to order these elusive and secretive pots when the opportunity arose. The chance took a long time. I do not often frequent brasseries and good French restaurants, and though I have been to a few gastropubs, I somehow never managed to order the rillettes. At The Hope and Anchor near Waterloo I had a globe artichoke instead (one has to have priorities). At the Great Queen Street in Covent Garden I had the neck of lamb, which embarrassingly for my companion kept me buried in a heap of bones for half an hour. And though I never made it to The Eagle (the original gastropub), I did buy The Eagle cookbook but became too busy cooking David Eyre’s Portuguese inspired braises and Tom Norrington-Davies’ excellent coriander rice to explore potting meat.

It was therefore with great delight that I finally found the right time and place to order rillettes. It was at a large family gathering in the Princess Victoria gastro pub in Shepherd’s bush. I knew immediately upon reading the menu that this was my rillettes moment, and I seized it with huge anticipation. To raise the gambit further, I was the only one who ordered rillettes. And yes, I do admit to feeling a little self-satisfied as the other diners cooed in unison, nudging me to comment on the provenance and making of rillettes.

My rillettes eventually arrived in a little sealed pot and looked suitably intriging and posh. I tucked in, nodding approvingly when I caught a guest’s eye. I was reassured – they tasted just as I imagined they should taste, however, later, as the table was being cleared, I was unsettled by a nagging feeling that I might have been a little disappointed…

In fact, I learned a valuable foodie lesson: don’t count your rabbits until you’ve tried them in the rillettes – or, in other words, don’t over fixate on the latest new ingredient, trending recipe or restaurant creation, they might not match your expectations. Rillettes are delicious – nothing more, nothing less – just enjoy them when you can.

How Dad Cooked It

  1. Slice the tuna very thinly, pour the wine in a bowl and marinate the tuna for 20 minutes.
  2. Put the corn in another pan and add the olive oil. Bring to a simmer then turn the heat down very low and confit for 20 minutes or until the corn is soft. Drain and save the oil for another use.
  3. Peel and cut the garlic into fine slices. Place in a small pan and add the extra virgin olive oil, bring to a simmer then turn the heat down very low and confit for 10 minutes, then add the bay leaves, thyme and peppercorn and continue to confit until the garlic is soft. Add the butter in slices, turn the heat up to melt the butter. Drain the tuna slices and discard the wine. Add the tuna to the butter and oil confit. Continue to heat and confit on a low setting until the tuna is just cooked through, stirring and turning occasionally. Drain the oil into a bowl and return the tuna to the pan.
  4. Measure 100ml of the oil and butter into a pan or bowl and add the drained corn. Blitz with a stick blender until smooth. Add the mixture to the tuna pan and mix, breaking up the tuna slightly. Return the pan to the heat, using a thermometer bring gently to 75C, and hold this temperature for 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Add the lemon juice and season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  5. With sterilised jars and spoons, decant the rillettes mixture into the jars and seal. Cool and keep in the fridge. Leave to settle for a day or two. They will keep for about a week.
  6. To serve take from the fridge half an hour before using. Serve with sliced baguette and cornichons and extra lemon.
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