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Pike Head Rillettes

pike rillettes in jar and on crackers

These rillettes (a French charcuterie item made by pounding meat, usually pork, into threads along with braising liquid and fat) are made by slowly braising large pike heads, then using the resulting meat to make a delicious spreadable paste that is perfect for canapés, appetizers, or as part of a charcuterie board. The large amounts of fat and collagen in the heads give these rillettes a luscious, lip smacking quality, and will help them set once refrigerated. They are a labour of love and take some time, but are definitely worth it, especially if you are looking for fun ways to practice nose-to-tail eating. The rillettes should last about a week in the fridge. 

  • Prep Time30 min
  • Cook Time2 hr 30 min
  • Total Time3 hr
  • Ready in1 day
  • YieldApprox. 500ml

Ingredients

  • 2 large pike heads (mine were from 5-6lb pike)
  • 2-4 oz (50-120g) boneless pike fillet (optional)
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon (0.5g) lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon (0.1g) fresh dill, minced
  • 1 teaspoon (2g) green onion/scallion, green part only, minced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon (5-7mL) plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons (10mL) mayonnaise
  • Small pinch of kosher salt or fleur de sel
  • 1 teaspoon (2.5g) capers, chopped
  • 1 heaping teaspoon (5-7mL) cured pike roe* (optional)

Preparation

1

Rinse pike heads under cold running water. 

Put into a medium pot that will fit both heads in the bottom of the pot. 

pike heads

Cover the heads with cold water by an inch (2.5cm), then heat up the pot until it comes to a bare simmer (some small bubbles breaking the surface).

Reduce heat to low and let cook uncovered for 2.5 hours. 

Check periodically to make sure there is still water in the pot. Add more if it looks like it will run out. 

This process will make your kitchen small quite strongly of fish, so use the hood fan and light a candle! Another trick is to leave a small jar of bleach near the stove to soak up smells. Make sure that it is well labeled so no one uses it for anything else accidentally. 

2

After 2.5 hours, remove the fish heads to a bowl with a slotted spoon. 

Strain out the liquid in the pot into a large bowl and set aside. 

Wash out the pot, then return the liquid back to the pot and bring to a strong simmer. 

Reduce the liquid until there is only about 1/4 cup (60mL) left. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. 

3

While the liquid is reducing, and once the fish is cool enough to handle, begin separating all of the meat from the heads into a medium bowl. 

You must be fastidious about not allowing any bones to make their way into the meat pile. 

Most meat will be found in the cheeks, behind the head in the collar, on the inside of the jaw, and on top of the head. 

Discard all bones, skin, hard cartilage, brains, and eyeballs, but keep the fat and translucent bits.

You want roughly 2 cups (500mL) of meat when you’re finished. If you didn’t get enough, you can reduce the rest of the ingredients in the recipe to suit the amount you have, or you can poach a small pike fillet in the reducing liquid until cooked and add it to the meat pile to make up the difference. 

4

Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl with the pike meat, and begin stirring with a fork.

Once everything is incorporated, start using the fork to mash everything, breaking it down into creamy threads. 

Begin adding the 1/4 of reduced and cooled braising liquid, a splash at a time and continue stirring and mashing. 

5

Once all of the liquid is incorporated, your rillettes should be creamy, with no large pieces of fish visible. 

finished rillettes in a bowl

Taste the rillettes. If they taste somewhat bland, add salt. If they taste like they’re missing something, try adding a little splash of lemon juice. 

Spoon the rillettes out of the bowl and into a mason jar or other suitable container with a lid (preferably glass or ceramic). Put in the fridge overnight to set. 

6

Enjoy the rillettes spread onto bread or crackers. Top with fresh dill or chopped chives for garnish. 

They should last a week in the fridge. Enjoy!

rillettes on crackers

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