french fridays with dorie: sardine rillettes

Not every one of the recipes we’ve made for French Fridays with Dorie over the past 18 months has been a winner across the board. Everyone has different tastes, and while there were some recipes that were widely liked, and some that had mixed results, I can’t remember a recipe that generated as much advanced dread as this week’s Sardine Rillettes.

In my opinion, sardines get a bad rap. The first time I ever ate sardines was in France, and they didn’t come out of a can. At the tail end of a whirlwind driving tour of France (one week, 2000 kilometers), we stopped to visit a family friend in Nantes where they grilled fresh sardines over a wood fire for dinner. We had never had anything like it before. To this day, it was one of the best meals I ever ate. It was years before we were able to replicate this dish stateside as fresh sardines are a rare sighting at the fish market, and when I find them, they are usually flown in from Greece or some other Mediterranean spot. But, I digress.

I like most fish. I even like the oily, strong-tasting fish, like bluefish or mackerel. I also enjoy smoked fish. Sardines fit right in with these not-always-popular flavors. We eat canned sardines for the occasional lunch, by choice. In fact, a couple weeks before the April recipes were nominated, I bought a multi-pack of sardines at Costco, willingly and without any prompting.

This is a long-way of saying the Sardine Rillettes did not scare me in the least. And, now, having made them, they didn’t disappoint either. This recipe was similar to recipes I’ve made for smoked bluefish and smoked trout pâté. For this recipe, flaked canned sardines are deboned and then pureed with a cream cheese base along with herbs (I used parsley and dill) and other aromatic flavors. It chills overnight for the flavors to meld.

The recipe made a generous amount of fishy spread. We enjoyed the rillettes on crackers as an appetizer. I also spread it on toasted rye bread for breakfast. And, one night, I thinned the sardine rillettes with Greek yogurt and tossed it with ziti for dinner. I definitely got good mileage from the recipe.

It was a hit at my house, and I would definitely make it again. I would consider changing up the type of fish for variation. Smoked trout would make tasty rillettes too.

You can check out how other brave Doristas made out with their sardines here.

We don’t post the recipes, but consider getting your own copy of the book, Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

Now, to talk about scary food, next week’s recipe is for coconut friands, a sort of mini-cake. Shredded coconut is one food that I don’t do, and it’s not up for negotiation. Fortunately, my sister Jane and her family are huge coconut fans, so I’ve enlisted her help. She’s made the friands and will be guest posting for me next Friday to share her outcome. Stop by and check out what she has to say.


Posted on 13 April 2012, in French Fridays with Dorie and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. Ooh, now that’s an interesting and creative way to use the rillettes. Great idea!

  2. thekitchenlioness

    I am glad that you and your family liked the sardine rillettes as much as we did. One of my sons just spread them on his toasts for breakfast. I enjoyed reading your post and I think that the idea of combining the rillettes with pasta is definitely worth keeping in mind for the next time that I will prepare this dish.

  3. I am glad to see this was a hit for you – and that there are so many positive reactions on this week’s recipes. I am with you on shredded coconut – this was a tough month for me :-)

  4. Whew. I’m SO glad I was not the ONLY fan :)

  5. I’m so glad you liked this one so much! I really wanted to like it. I wanted to face my food fears & show them who’s boss. Alas, it was not to be. I’m also anti-coconut so we’ll see how next week goes…

  6. great blog, don’t be afraid of next week!

  7. bevwinchester

    I loved reading your sardine story- most enjoyable & your rillettes look delicious even though I did have a bit of trouble with them!

  8. I’ve been wanting to try grilled sardines since I saw Mario Batali do it roadside in the Spain: On the Road Again PBS program! Can’t wait to see your sister’s post. :-)

  9. I adore sardines so I don’t see what all the fuss is about. And this is such an easy way to enjoy them!

  10. Great story. I’d like to try grilled fresh sardines. I wanted to like this one but didn’t. I love coconut though. I think that’s what makes the group fun.

  11. I love that you had them for breakfast too! Grilled sardines sound fab! :)

  12. First, let me say that every thing you did with this recipe sounds wonderful,
    including the ziti. When hubby and I were traveling thru the south of
    France, years ago, he tried the “real” sardines and loved them. Every
    time they were on the menu, he ordered them. We enjoyed this a lot,
    and I look forward to trying this with salmon.

  13. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t enjoy this at all, but I’m tempted to try my leftovers out on pasta. Maybe it won’t be so bad if it’s heated up. I’m officially intrigued!

  14. Betsy, Good for you….glad you enjoyed these! I could not get myself to give them a try! You were very creative with them!

  15. I’m glad you enjoyed these, Betsy. I just have never cared for sardines. I am looking forward to the salmon and tuna rillettes. I hope you have a great weekend!

  16. It’s funny because I have had grilled sardines on many occassions in the past and loved them. They are very popular in Croatia, topped with a yummy garlic herb sauce. But somehow I’ve always viewed canned sardines as a different sort of beast. This week has taught me to be more open minded about canned sardines and, considering how nutritious they are, I will definitely be serving them again.

  17. I liked this too – I did not find it scary at all.

  18. Betsy, Your memory of Sardines eaten after being wood fire-roasted caused me to ponder and think…….. if I were in France, and, I travel there often, I would have eaten that willingly. So, why did I shudder and NOT do this week’s recipe (I skipped a page and made the delicious Rillettes de Thom). I like smoked bluefish, all patés, and even purchased the 6-pack from Costco —– just couldn’t get past opening the can. Next time I will be braver. Nice Post. Mary

  19. Wow, you got a lot of use out of this recipe! That is awesome! I thought they were OK, hubby didn’t like them. I do really want to try fresh sardines now though!

  20. I love fish too! This is one FF recipe I really do want to make. So glad to see someone who isn’t afraid of a little old sardine : ) Awesome idea on the pasta.

  21. I just tried to comment on your asparagus, not sure if it went through so I will say again that it looks like you had fun with the lettering and your asparagus meal looks delicious;-) I give you credit for using up the sardine rillettes on the pasta-very creative and it sounds good too;-)

  22. Your grilled sardine meal sounds wonderful! Once I actually read the recipe, the rillettes didn’t sound so scary to me, and in fact we enjoyed them.

  23. Thanks for posting the matzoh crunch recipe on my blog. I LOVE that recipe!!! I discovered it on David Lebovitz’s blog a couple of years ago and make it every year now. We call it matzoh crack in our house. It’s by far my favorite passover dessert.

  24. I’m so glad the rillettes were such a hit for you. I’m always bummed when I don’t like something (as was the case this week). You definitely got a lot of use out of this recipe!

  25. Mmmm, roasted sardines, now that sounds appetizing and I’m not even a big fan of the little fish. The pasta dish sounds very appetizing.

  26. The pasta idea sounds wonderful – ours didn’t last long enough for us to get very creative. I think sardines get a bad rap, too. Now, if I could just arrange a French road trip so that I could try some grilled fresh ones…

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