This is a very simple charcuterie that will kick up your picnic lunches a few notches, best eaten with crusty French bread and a glass of Sancerre. Substitute celery leaves if you have trouble finding lovage—their flavors are very similar. The rillettes can be packed into Mason jars and covered with a layer of liquid duck fat to protect it from the air. It will improve after a few days, and can be kept for 2 weeks in the refrigerator if sealed under the fat.
4 duck legs
1 quart stock (chicken or duck)
4 stalks green garlic (whites only) or 3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cardamom
4 tablespoons gin
½ cup lovage or celery leaves, plus 1 teaspoon minced lovage for serving
1 cup duck fat, melted (optional)
Whole grain mustard, for serving
Pickled red onions, optional, for serving
Cornichon pickles, optional, for serving
Arrange the duck legs in a Dutch oven and cover with the stock. Preheat oven to 350° while you bring the stock to a boil. Cover the Dutch oven with a lid and place in the oven to braise for 2 hours. The duck will be tender, with meat easily removed from the bone.
Remove the cooked legs from the liquid and set aside until cool enough to handle. Strain the stock into a bowl and reserve. While the meat is cooling, roughly chop the garlic and place in a mortar with pestle or food processor with a teaspoon of salt, the cardamom, gin and minced lovage. Pound or process to form a paste.
Pick the meat off the bones, discarding the skin. Pound the meat in the mortar or process in a food processor with the garlic paste until well incorporated. It should not be a purée. Add about 1 cup of the reserved stock into the mixture and stir through or pulse in the machine. If it still appears dry, add a little more. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Be sure to season until it’s just a little too salty; once it is chilled, the seasoning will be just right.
When your meat mixture is appropriately seasoned, pack it tightly into small Mason jars or 1 large crock, and spoon a layer of melted duck fat over the top. This last step is optional, but the rillettes will keep longer sealed under the fat.
Chill and serve on toasted baguette slices with minced lovage, whole grain mustard, pickled red onion and cornichon pickles.
BEN RIGBY is a professional cook, freelance writer and anthropologist. Amateur gardening and banjos round out the days. Follow him on instagram at @rigbybenjamin