Tuna Rillettes without a Kitchen Island

French Fridays with Dorie – Tuna Rillettes

Tuna Rillettes

Rillettes are coarse, pâté-like (but not actually pâté) French spreads typically made from duck, pork, or rabbit. They are easy to make and present well as a deeply satisfying appetizer or picnic food. Rillettes are the perfect type of something-something that when added to a charcuterie tray and set out on your kitchen island (and enjoyed with a glass of wine) brand you as chic and ‘with it.’

At least I think so because I don’t actually have a kitchen island.

Rillettes of all kinds (including tuna rillettes) are quite simply a meal in a jar if you also happen to have a loaf of bread (and a kitchen island) nearby. While I’ve enjoyed the more traditional meaty preparations quite a few times (but never actually around a kitchen island – because I don’t have one) I’ve not yet had the pleasure of making them myself. Shame on me for that. I have, however, made them using different fish types which have yielded varying results. In fact, if you were to set foot in my house 2 years ago I’m sure you enjoyed David Lebovitz’s recipe for Salmon Rillettes because I was hoisting them just about everyone who walked through the door back then.

A year later I gave the sardine variety a whirl for the French Fridays with Dorie project but I was not so impressed. I felt the preparation didn’t have much there there and didn’t elevate the sardine in the slightest. If anything, it dumbed it down. Please don’t think was because I am not a sardine fan because I am. A rabid sardine fan. The lack of any distinctive flavor addition (other than shallots and lemon juice) ended up creating more of a “mock tuna salad” than any chic appetizer spread brandishing as fancy a name as “rillettes” (pronounced “ree-yet.”)

Tuna Rillettes-1

Seeing Tuna Rillettes turn up in our assignment then gave me some pause as I was sure the inclusion of tuna itself would pretty much guarantee I’d end up with, well, tuna salad. I was pleasantly surprised for this spread relied on an expert balance of flavors including curry powder, quatre épices (thankfully I had a sizable stash leftover from its staring role in Dorie’s chopped liver and onions) and lemon juice to brighten up the whole mix. Even the choice of creme fraiche, with its distinctive tang, contributed a uniqueness here where cream cheese, heavy cream, or mayo (more commonly used) would not. While gobbling it all down my brain made no connection to the pedestrian tuna salad I earlier feared this would become.

Tuna Rillettes

Rillettes come in all sorts of textures. There are no rules here so make them how you like. Dorie Greenspan’s recipe calls for putting the ingredients in a food processor, but felt that turning this into tuna baby food would take all the romance out of it for me — with or without a kitchen island. Instead, I gave it all a very hearty mix through with a fork and left it at that. I think it ends up more closely resembling the texture of the duck or pork rillettes this way anyway.

And since I was already deviating from tradition I decided to served the tuna rillettes with toasts made from some tasty Persian sangak, a dimpled flat bread dusted with sesame seeds. (Seem previously as the base for the Ahi Tuna Pizza’s.)  We may not have a kitchen island but we always have sangak on hand and I have yet to find anything that isn’t somehow enhanced by its inclusion.

Will I make them again? Yup. Probably. When I get a kitchen island.

Tuna Rillettes

Tuna Rillettes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 10 oz.

Tuna Rillettes

What keeps this dish from becoming just another tuna salad is the delightful mix of spices and flavorings. Choose a good quality curry powder with a moderate inclusion of heat if you enjoy that sort of thing and do your best to either find or make Quatre-Épices (recipe here) You'll be glad you did but if that is not possible use allspice instead.

This is what you will need:

  • 2 cans of chunk light tuna packed in water, drained.
  • 1 small to medium shallot, peeled, thinly sliced.
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp. quatre epices (see note)
  • 3 Tbsp creme fraîche (or 4-5 Tbsp heavy cream)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt, to taste
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice, more to taste

This is how you make it:

  1. Put the shallot in a bowl and rinse. Dry thoroughly with paper towels and set out to dry for 1 hour. Put all ingredients except lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well with a fork. Add salt, pepper, lemon juice and mix again. Adjust seasoning and lemon juice to taste. Mix in parsley and put in a container and cover with plastic wrap or lid. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving.
  2. If refrigerating over night then take out of the refrigerator and let rillettes sit for 30 minutes before serving.
  3. Serve with crackers, toasts, cornichons and other


About Trevor Kensey

To be truthful, I don’t know what “Sis. Boom. [blog!]” means either. The name implies something explosive just happened I suppose I would like it if each post would make made a small ‘boom’ in your day or at least a fizzle. Even though a recipe is included with every post I have a hard time calling this a “food blog” or even myself a “food blogger”.

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  1. I don’t have a kitchen Island either, are we deficit? Oh, my I never felt insure about my lack of island…

    So wonderful to hear you are a sardine lover. I spent my honeymoon in Portugal and people cook them on little grills on the street… but they are large there… really tasty with a bottle (yes, a whole bottle) of red Portuguese wine.

    Glad to hear you enjoyed the rillettes the seasoning was right on.

  2. If we got a kitchen island, there would no longer be room for even a single person to get into the kitchen. Well, one could scoot around it, I suppose, pushing it out into the hall whenever the fridge, oven, or drawers needed opening. Not very chic, I’m afraid. I do have a very nice patio, though. I think these would be perfect for an al fresco snack, especially with a rosé on hand.

    I think mashing them rather than making them into a paste is a much prettier option, which also has the advantage of avoiding the word paste.

    • Teresa dear. I’m afraid the only way I will get a kitchen oven is if I get a new kitchen too. Which, of course, will have to go in our new house. I will be waiting a very long time I think.

  3. Kitchen island? I stopped counting after the first three times you typed them words…. Oh, the precious other half in kitchen island-less kitchen household – please let him have his kitchen island already!! unless of course, there is no space!! 😉

    This ‘ree-yet’ is ok-lah and I might just go make the other two from the book!

  4. I think leaving the rillettes chunky is a great idea. I have never heard of Persian sengak before but it sounds intriguing. I look forward to making this when I get home.

    • I may have to do a post on Sangak soon as it does generate a lot of interest. I’ve now made this another time and used the food processor. both good… I just didn’t want a puree…that doesn’t say “rillette’ to me.

  5. I have not heard of Persian sengak before either but I love all things bread. I have a love/hate relationship with my kitchen island, it’s great for cooking but also collects large amounts of stuff.

    • I just want a space where I can cook and people can be there too so I’m not so isolated while I create wonderful masterpieces for the masses. I also want the new kitchen that will go with the island….and the new house that will go with the new kitchen.

      Is that so much to ask?

  6. I’m having all kinds of concerns about the kitchen in our new place. It was clearly designed by someone who doesn’t cook. The only outlets in the room are directly behind the stove and directly behind the sink! That doesn’t just sound weird, it sounds like it should violate some safety code. But, I think that we might just have space to put in a very small island. I’m thinking about one of those rolling type butcher block thingies in the short term. It needs to be big enough to hold the book, a jar of rillettes, and a glass of wine:-)

  7. These are absolutely beautiful Trevor – I can’t believe I am saying that about fish!

  8. LOL, I have a lifetime supply of quatre-epices, too! And island or no island, I’d love to gather in your kitchen and chow down on your beautiful rillettes!

  9. No island here either. And I could sure use one, too! Your photos are always beautiful, Trevor.

  10. I’ve had kitchen islands in my past and now I don’t have a kitchen island in my present. Ho Hum. Kitchen islands are overrated. Except in Rose’s instance when the kitchen island would probably have those very necessary electric outlets that she doesn’t have conviently placed in her kitchen. I have never heard of Persian sangak either but will be looking for it – Trader Joe’s??? Whole Foods??? I liked this tuna concoction. Although I used my processor, I didn’t go for the creamy texture. I liked it a bit “rough”. Very nicely written post. Pictures are, as usual, outstanding. Making tuna-fish look pretty is difficult. (Not as difficult as green stew, however.) Have I seen your Haiku logo? Can’t remember seeing it. Anyway, it’s fantastic. As are you.


  11. I love your presentation, and I like the idea of a “chunkier” tuna rillettes.

  12. No kitchen island? How do you survive? I think if you don’t have a kitchen island you have to call this tuna dip.

  13. I loved this recipe! I couldn’t believe it at first but tuna is damn delicious with curry. From now on in my island-less kitchen tuna will only be served in rillettes form with curry!

    • Yeah. Tuna – Curry. I don’t think I ever would have gone there on my own but so far I’ve made this two times and I’ve ended up eating most of it. As good as it is on crackers and bread I’ve actually enjoyed eating it most on apple slices where the crisp sweetness goes against the ‘heat’ from the curry and the general tuna saltiness. This is how these need to be eaten.

  14. OK, I’ll admit, I do have a kitchen island, though it’s usually piled high with mail, so might as well be islandless. Glad you liked this one. Me too. I pureed it, but I’ll try it your way next time, and there will be a next time.

  15. Your photos look so fabulous, they’ve almost convinced me that I loved (loved!) this. Alas, not quite.

    I haven’t had a kitchen island for a long time (either place), though it’s definitely a great way to have people gather around in the kitchen and pretend to help you get dinner prepared! Or to have your drinks staged. Or… between your island and Jora’s grill, I think I need to move!

  16. I am confused – do you want an island or not?

    This is the first home I have had with an island and I am pretty darn sure it is going to be a criteria for our next house. We use the island more than we use the kitchen table – it’s also a great barrier between my cooking space and the peanut gallery 🙂

  17. I have a peninsula…does that count? LOL! I love it when I bake….it’s a perfect place to spread out! It’s also great for entertaining!
    Trevor, your photos are my inspiration to become a better photographer…they are always a step above the rest…just beautiful!
    This one was good, even my picky eater loved it! Have a great week!

  18. I do have a kitchen island but I’d rather have the other kind. And as for tuna-I’ve been needing a new recipe. I can put it on my island admidst my sea of unwinning lottery tickets. One never knows.

  19. I love the mason jar presentation. It makes everything seem so modern. Thanks for the link to the David Lebovitz recipe. It sounds excellent.

  20. Me and this article, sitting in a tree, L-NI–R-NA–E-G!