Rillettes are usually made from meat, cooked slowly in fat until tender enough to be easily shredded, and then mixed with the fat. When my friend Robert mentioned he’d been gifted some skate and asked me to prepare it, skate rillettes is what I came up with. Rillettes are usually cooked in fat of the same animal, but since skate has very little fat and it is known to be excellent with beurre noisette (brown butter), that is what I used instead. Some garlic and anchovies were added to deepen the flavor. To complete the dish I added roasted bell peppers with anchovies, olives, and parsley, and served everything on crostini for a change in texture. I was very happy with the resulting dish that had a great variety of textures and flavors that all worked very well together. Three types of butter are used to make this, so you will love this if you like butter. Here’s what I did…
For 4 servings
900 grams (2 lbs) skate wings, cleaned and skinned
4 red bell peppers
2 Tbsp black olives, preferably Taggiasca, minced
1 Tbsp capers, rinsed and dried, preferably salted capers, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 anchovy fillets, minced
1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley
100 grams (1/2 cup) beurre noisette
4 Tbsp clarified butter
1 Tbsp butter, melted
8 slices French or Italian bread
80 ml (1/3 cup) chardonnay
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp cornstarch
Season 900 grams of skate wings with salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour (or a bit longer) to allow the seasoning to penetrate into the fish.
Preheat the oven to 250C/480F. Roast 4 red bell peppers at 250C/480F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the skin starts to break and blacken.
Place the roasted bell pepper in a plastic bag, and close the bag tightly.
Allow the peppers to cool inside the bag for about an hour, or until cool enough to handle. By enclosing them in a plastic bag, the vapor will make it easier to remove the skins.
Take the peppers out of the bag and put them in a container to catch the juices, together with any juices from the plastic bag.
Peel the peppers, discarding the skin but catching the juices, also those that are inside the peppers. Those juices contain a lot of flavor that we don’t want to waste.
Strain the seeds out of the pepper juice.
Put the bell pepper juice in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer over medium heat until reduced to about one quarter of the original volume.
Dice the peeled roasted bell peppers.
Mix the diced peppers with a tablespoon of minced parsley, 2 tablespoons of minced olives, and 1 tablespoon of minced capers, and add to the reduced pepper juice.
Stir to mix, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Take the skate wings out of the refrigerator and pat them dry with paper towels.
To develop more flavor, brown the skate wings. For this you should use clarified butter, as the brown butter will burn if you heat it high enough to brown the skate wings. As you can see in the photo, the clarified butter can be heated to very high without the butter burning.
Brown the skate wings one by one over high heat.
Place the skate wings on a plate after browning.
Turn off the heat and when the pan has cooled off a little add 2 minced cloves of garlic and 4 minced anchovy fillets. Stir over medium heat, making sure to include any browned bits left behind in the pan from browning the skate.
Deglaze the pan with 80 ml of chardonnay.
Bring to a boil and reduce by half. Turn off the heat.
You can finish cooking the skate wings sous-vide or in the oven. Add any juices that have leaked from the skate to the sauce.
To cook in the oven, put the skate in an oven proof dish and bake at 180C/350F for 15 to 20 minutes or until the skate is cooked. (For best results, insert the probe of an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the skate, such that the tip of the probe is roughly in the center, and cook to a core temperature of 52C/125F.) Although this recipe is forgiving because of the butter, you should still try to avoid overcooking the skate as its texture will become stringy.
To cook sous-vide, make sure that the beurre noisette is cold and thus solid.
Vacuum seal the skate with the beurre noisette.
Cook sous-vide for 30 to 45 minutes at 52C/125F.
Make crostini while the skate is cooking. Melt a tablespoon of butter, and brush 8 slices of bread lightly with that butter.
Broil the slices of bread on both sides until crunchy and browned. Be careful not to burn them, and remember that the browning will happen progressively. (At first it will go very slowly, but once it starts to brown, it will go from golden to brown to burnt very fast.)
When the skate is cooked, add the butter and juices from the bags to the sauce. (Or if the skate was cooked in the oven, simply add the beurre noisette directly to the sauce, together with any juices from the dish in which the skate was cooked.)
Use an immersion blender to make the sauce smooth.
The butter will not completely integrate.
To achieve that, mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water until there are no lumps, and add this slurry to the sauce.
Cook over medium heat and use the immersion blender again to emulsify the sauce (it’s a bit like making mayo).
You could also serve the skate like this, but there are still lots of bones inside.
If the fish is properly cooked, it should be easy to scrape the fish off the bones. It will be very flaky.
Add the flakes to the sauce…
…and stir to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Gently reheat the bell peppers if necessary (over medium heat, stirring).
Place 2 slices of bread on each preheated plate.
Place first a layer of roasted peppers on each slice of bread, and then a layer of skate rillettes. Serve and enjoy.
This is amazing with an aged oaked chardonnay. It should be aged long enough (5 years or more for most chardonnays) for a hazelnut color (and flavor!) to develop in the wine. As you can imagine this will work wonders with the hazelnut butter.