Traditional recipes

Potted Chicken Rillettes

Potted Chicken Rillettes



  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme plus 4 large thyme sprigs
  • 4 bay leaves (preferably fresh); 2 finely chopped, 2 left whole
  • 1 5-pound whole chicken (preferably organic), rinsed, patted dry
  • 6 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth


  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped shallots (7 to 8 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Shredded braised chicken (from recipe above)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • Crusty country bread slices or baguette slices

Recipe Preparation


  • Combine 2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons chopped thyme, and 2 chopped bay leaves in small bowl. Rub herb mixture all over chicken; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and chill overnight.

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pot and cook until browned on all sides, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add carrot, celery, onion, and garlic; sauté until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Stir in 4 thyme sprigs and 2 whole bay leaves. Add wine and boil until almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add enough broth to come halfway up sides of chicken; bring to boil. Cover pot; place in oven and braise until chicken is tender, turning chicken once, about 1 hour.

  • Remove pot from oven; transfer chicken to bowl and cool slightly. Strain braising liquid into large saucepan. Boil until liquid is reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes. Remove skin and bones from chicken; shred chicken meat into bite-size pieces and reserve for chicken rillettes. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill chicken and braising liquid separately.


  • Melt 1/4 cup butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add remaining 3/4 cup butter to skillet and allow to melt. Stir in tarragon and thyme, then shredded chicken and reserved 2 1/2 cups braising liquid. Simmer until chicken is very moist and tender and liquid is slightly reduced but some liquid still remains, about 5 minutes. Season mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Cool slightly. Mix in parsley and chives.

  • Pack chicken rillettes into large glass jar or divide among smaller jars. Chill uncovered until cold, then seal jar and keep chilled. DO AHEAD Can be made 5 days ahead. Keep chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.

  • Serve rillettes with crusty bread and pickles.

Reviews Section

How To Make Potted Meat

When you think of potted meat you probably think of Armor. Ritz cracks and that weird gelatin on top might come to mind, too. If you are like me, you think of great memories on the couch with dad. We would eat this stuff together and watch TV.

You might also think of your own pantry. You know, these canned meats have a tremendous shelf life and make for a great protein solution. Did you know that canned meats can last up to 5 years beyond the best by date printed on the can?

While you might think that potted meat came to be during the age of metal canning and the industrial revolution, you would be mistaken. Just because it’s in a tin can today does not mean it started that way. The potting of meat or preserving meat by covering it in its own fat is hundreds of years old.

It was a process so popular, in fact, it was published in more than one volume on cooking in the 1700s. We are going to be using a recipe from the 1778 book A Lady’s Assistant By Charlotte Mason. The recipe is called Potting Beef.

I like this recipe best because it’s very easy, it doesn’t require any added nitrites and it can be executed with everything the average person has on hand. We are going use a modern-day twist on the “POTS” used but other than that it will be pretty much the same method used in the 1700s.

Tag Archives: potted meat and fish

Now I know you’re thinking that I am dressing up something French as British by saying ‘potted chicken livers’ instead of pâté but the British have been potting meats like beef, game and salmon, and also liver, for a long time now. Potting helps preserve meat if covered with an airtight layer of clarified butter and kept in a cool place. I am going to write a post very soon on potting meats as well as some other methods of meat preservation soon the point of this post was for me to write a little diatribe about how the word pâté has the same roots as pot so I could feel a little smug and say that I was right. You know like those people who say raspberry coulis, when they just mean sauce. It turns out that I was a little wrong: my French is worse than pidgin and I just assumed the two words had the same root. I am blaming Elizabeth David for this gaff: she talks of potted chicken livers as though that’s what everyone calls them down her way.

Pot or pâté? Ms David knew which side of her toast was buttered

So as it turns out that the word pâté has the same roots as the words pastry and pasta, coming from Greek words meaning ‘small particles and fine textures’ according Harold McGee in his tome On Food and Cooking. So potted livers have a fine texture as they are a mixture of butter and liver, and pastry is made up of particles of flour and butter. Actually, pâté started life more as a chopped assemblage of meats, rather than the refined smoothness we think of today. Oddly enough pâté and pie eventually became interchangeable words in medieval times because chopped meat was often cooked in pastry on both sides of the English Channel. As I have said before, the food histories of Britain and France blend so much there is sometimes no point in trying to discern between the two.

Anyway, I have chuntered on enough now so I shall give you two recipes for potted chicken livers. First, a couple of mentions on preparation and storage: in this recipe the livers are fried in butter until pink, about 4 or 5 minutes on a high heat. It is very important that they should be cooked through and only slightly pink, not just seared and bloody and rare. I don’t want you coming down with Campylobacter or some other nasty food poisoning microbe. The other thing is to cover your potted livers with a good layer of clarified butter along with a lid or a covering of cling film, especially if being kept in a cold larder. The butter isn’t necessary if you are keeping them in the fridge, but they should be covered with something butter is best though as it stops the livers from oxidising and turning from rich brown to muddy gray (oxidising is harmless, they’re still good to eat).

To make clarified butter, slowly melt some butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Skim off any froth or foam with a spoon and then decant the butter into a jug making sure none of the butter solids get poured out with it.

Potted chicken livers with brandy and peppercorns

This is the classic recipe for potted chicken livers, though I find that there is never enough brandy. I use quite a lot compared to many recipes because I like to be able to taste it brandy is very rich and it can be a bit too much, especially with all that liver and butter too. To counteract this is I add a good dose of piquant pickled green peppercorns which are available at delicatessen’s shops or online. You can of course omit the peppercorns and reduce the amount of brandy if you’d rather.


3 tsp rinsed and drained pickled green peppercorns

clarified butter (optional)

Pick over the chicken livers, removing any large pieces of gristle, carefully removing any little green bile ducts that may be left on them. Get a frying pan nice and hot and add 2 ounces of the butter. When the butter stops foaming, add the livers and fry for a total of 4 or 5 minutes, turning them half-way through.

The idea is for the livers to be cooked, but still a little pink, so cut inside one to check after 4 minutes of frying. Tip the livers and butter into a blender or food processor and return the pan to the heat whilst you deglaze it with the brandy. Tip the brandy and burnt bits into the blender along with the rest of the butter and blitz until the required smoothness (I like mine very smooth). Mix in the peppercorns and the seasoning before potting in one large earthenware pot of several smaller ones. Pour over the clarified butter to form an airtight seal.

Potted chicken livers with gin, rosemary and thyme

My attempt at a recipe rather more Scottish in its flavours, which I think works very well. These livers are much more savoury and less rich than in the recipe above: a good shot of gin provides a subtle aromatic bitter hit of juniper, and the fresh herbs mellow it nicely.

The method is exactly the same as the above except 2 teaspoons each of finely chopped rosemary and thyme are fried along with the livers. Of course exchange the brandy for the gin and omit the pickled peppercorns.


  • 500g pork belly, rind removed, cut into small pieces
  • 4 chicken thighs with legs, halved
  • 250ml (1 cup) dry white wine
  • 100ml water
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped
  • 2,5ml (½ tsp) allspice
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 40g (4 tbsp) butter
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) brown sugar, to serve
  • 4 plums, halved, to serve
  • Melba toast, to serve
  • microgreens, to serve


Place the pork belly and chicken in a large saucepan. Add the wine, water, garlic, allspice, nutmeg, bay leaves, thyme and seasoning. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for 1 hour and 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Carefully remove the bones and tear the meat into smaller pieces using two forks. Reserve the cooking juices.

Spoon the cooled meat into two sterilised jars and pour in the leftover cooking juices. Melt 20g (2 tbsp) of butter and pour a thin layer over the rillettes. Set aside to cool and store in a cool place.

Melt the remaining butter and the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Place the plum halves, cut-side down, in the butter and sugar mixture. Cook until the sugar starts to caramelise, about 4 – 5 minutes.

Potted Duck Recipe

All you need is some slow cooked, and well cooked, duck legs, where the meat is meltingly tender. This is how we make potted duck:

  1. Marinate and salt the duck overnight
  2. Brown some duck legs in a little duck fat (or oil)
  3. Cover with white wine (optional) and water and cook for 3-4 hours on the stove (or in the oven)
  4. Shred the meat, season
  5. Place in small ramekins or jar, cover with the cooking fat from earlier
  6. Place in the fridge overnight and it’s ready to be eaten

Recipe Summary

  • 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 12 cloves garlic
  • 6 (1/4 inch thick) slices fresh ginger
  • 1 orange, zest cut into thin strips
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 whole duck
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon brandy (such as Armagnac)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon grated orange zest

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Line a 9x13 baking dish with 2 pieces of aluminum foil.

Stir kosher salt, 2 teaspoons black pepper, and dried thyme together in a bowl. Mix garlic, ginger, orange zest strips, fresh thyme, and bay leaves together in another bowl.

Season duck all over, inside and out, with about 2/3 of the kosher salt mixture. Fill duck cavity with garlic mixture.

Place duck, breast-side up, into prepared baking dish and season with remaining salt mixture. Wrap duck tightly in aluminum foil.

Roast in the preheated oven until meat pulls away from the bones, 5 to 6 hours. Cool duck with its accumulated juices, wrapped in aluminum foil, to room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator for 12 hours or overnight.

Pick meat from bones and place in a bowl.

Spoon all accumulated juices in the foil into a saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Cook until hot throughout strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Let fat and stock separate transfer fat from the top to another bowl.

Mash duck meat, 3 tablespoons duck fat, 2 tablespoons duck stock, butter, brandy, parsley, chives, Dijon mustard, cayenne pepper, salt, and ground black pepper together in a bowl with a wooden spoon transfer to a sealable container, press down, and drizzle a little duck fat over the top. Sprinkle thyme leaves, black pepper, and orange zest over the top. Seal the container and refrigerate for the flavors to blend, 1 to 3 days.

Pique-Nique I – Chicken Rillettes with Preserved Lemon and Summer Savory

Fat. Let’s not beat around the bush, shall we? Fat’s probably the best place to begin a discussion of Chicken Rillettes with Preserved Lemon and Summer Savory. Au debut, as the French say, in the beginning, rillettes meant one thing – pork. Or rather, pork and fat. Rillettes was pork that had been salted, cooked slowly in pork fat, shredded, then preserved in the same fat, and served at room temperature, usually spread on toast. Rillettes* are now found all over France, and while pork is still popular, in the Southwest, the Midi-Pyrenees, extending down to the Spanish border, the technique is more often seen with duck or rabbit. Today rillettes of salmon, tuna or other fatty fish, or even mushrooms are not uncommon on pricey menus. It’s hard to argue with that–what doesn’t taste good when cooked slowly in fat and salt?

I don’t think a day of our trip to France passed without yet another version of rillettes or fois gras being put in front of us, often atop a salad, which seemed to be the customary way of serving them in the Quercy region where we were staying. Sarriette, summer savory, a traditional herb for braising, was a common flavoring, also often planted next to beans, an ingredient in another of Quercy’s regional specialities, cassoulet, where it is thought (don’t ask me how) to protect the beans from beetles. Sharp or sour condiments contrast nicely with the rich saltiness of rillettes, so pickles and mustard frequently materialized from culinary stage left as soon as we were served.

Rillettes also take well to preserved lemon, a non-traditional idea we found at the Auberge Flora, in Paris, where Chef Flora Mikula, famous for her contemporary spin on southern (French) country food, served us rabbit rillettes with preserved lemon. After – briefly, very briefly – wondering whether we could ask readers to braise a couple of rabbits, Jody decided to apply the same technique to chicken thighs, the tastiest and easiest part of the bird to bone.

A slow cooker is custom made for rillettes, although you can also use a Dutch oven over very low heat.

This recipe fills six 6.5-ounce bail-lid jars with rillettes. An open jar of rillettes can be as difficult to close – just one more bite – as a pint of good of ice cream. Etymological reflection helps. “Rillettes” is the plural diminutive of the old French word “rille,” a piece of pork. Pig, piglet. Rille, rillettes. Rille probably evolved out of an even earlier term for “board” or “straight edge,” from the Latin “regula,” meaning a straight edge. Presumably all those early cooks of rillettes were shredding their pork atop boards of one kind or another. Regula, of course, has given us all manner of English words about rules and limits, including self-regulation. A single jar of rillettes was enough for Jody and me for a last-minute late-night dinner, with pickles, mustard, bread and salad, and a bottle of inky wine from Cahors. Unless you’re riding in the Tour de France, you may want to draw your own straight edge at the one-jar limit. We’re keeping two jars in our fridge for emergencies, and we’ve prudently frozen the remainder, to be restored as a first course for a dinner party, or as needed for sharing out at a picnic. There is such a thing as having too much of a good thing available. Enjoy. Ken

*Rillettes is one of those rare words whose verb agreement in English may be either singular or plural. Rillettes is… and rillettes are… both appear, depending on the context. In French rillettes are treated as plural.

Thomas Keller’s Potted Salmon Rillettes

I’ve delayed writing this post for weeks because I don’t know how it’s possible to explain in words how spectacular this recipe is.

Brad and I are both huge Thomas Keller fans dating back to when we first tried his recipe for simple roasted chicken. A few years ago he bought me a collection of Keller cookbooks and we immediately gravitated to Bouchon.

These salmon rillettes are among the most intriguing recipes I found flipping through the book and I was thrilled to find them on the menu the next time we visited our local Bouchon.

It just took one bite and I was completely blown away. As much as I love salmon I’ve never imagined it could be so creamy, smooth, light, and flavorful. Just as awesome, for me, was the small plate style. This dish is perfect for casual sharing with friends.

Salmon rillettes at the Bouchon bar quickly became a regular treat for us. A dangerously expensive treat.

Last time we visited we managed to ring up what is now our personal record in bar tabs for just the two of us. Nothing to do with the salmon rillettes and everything to do with the fact that we got a little tipsy and spent a few hours letting the bartender pour us tastes of beverages that were so delicious we were compelled to buy complete glasses.

The biggest upside of this is that we were introduced to the perfectly complimentary wine for this dish: L’enclos Savennièrres. Yum.

Brad found the wine at our local wine store and I dug up the recipe for the rillettes. We now have everything we need to enjoy our favorite things about Bouchon at home for a (significantly smaller) fraction of the cost.

These are the perfect make-ahead dish for casual entertaining that will blow your guests away. Store them in these cute little gasket-seal canning jars for up to a week in the fridge. Pull them out all nonchalant… “I just whipped these up the other day” and claim the title of world’s greatest host/ess. Serve the salmon spread on toasted baguette – or swap out cucumber slices to keep things keto. Either way they’re going to change your world.

  • 1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • ¼ pound butter
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • paprika to taste
  • ground nutmeg to taste

In a heavy medium saucepan, simmer the beef in 1/4 inch of water. Stew until very tender, about 2 to 3 hours, replacing water as necessary. Drain, reserving the liquid.

Pass the cooked stew meat through a meat grinder twice, until it is the consistency of a thick, stringy paste.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Filter the melted butter through clean muslin (cheese cloth), to remove the milk solids.

In a medium bowl, mix the cooked meat with 3/4 of the strained, melted butter. Season with salt, pepper, paprika and nutmeg to taste. Stir in desired amount of reserved cooking liquid to moisten.

Transfer the mixture to sterile containers and top with remaining butter. Seal and chill in the refrigerator until serving.

Potted duck

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's potted duck: 'Rich and savoury.' Photograph: Colin Campbell for the Guardian

Rich and savoury, this is similar to classic duck rillettes, but much less fatty. Serves four as a starter.

A splash of rapeseed or olive oil
2 free-range duck legs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 good sprig fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
1 whole head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
150ml white wine
A good pinch of ground mixed spice
A good pinch of ground mace

Heat the oven to 140C/285F/gas mark 1. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Season the duck legs well, brown them all over in the hot pan, then transfer to a small roasting dish into which they will fit relatively snugly. Add the herbs and garlic, and pour over the wine and enough water just to immerse the meat. Cover the dish with a lid or with foil.

Cook for two to two and a half hours, until the duck is completely tender and can easily be pulled away from the bone. Remove the legs from the dish, then strain the cooking liquid into a jug and set aside.

When it's cool enough to handle, pull away the duck skin, then shred the flesh off the bones. Put this in a bowl, add plenty of salt and pepper, the pinches of spice and enough of the reserved cooking liquid just to bind the mix together – use as much of the fat off the top of the juices as you can, because it's this that helps bind the mix together. When you have a coarse, fairly loose pâté texture, taste and add more salt, pepper or spices as needed.

Pack the mixture into a bowl or four ramekins and pour a little more of the cooking juices on top. Refrigerate for at least a day, to allow the flavour to improve and the mix to set firm. Serve on oatcakes or brown toast, with a good chutney or onion marmalade.

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This article was edited on 21 October 2013, to correct the erroneous instruction "not to remove any skin and bones" from the smoked mackerel pâté.