Pork Rillettes (Rillettes de Porc) — A Sublime Spread

December 6, 2013

If I had to narrow my choice of meats down to one for the rest of my life, I am quite certain that meat would be pork.
~ James Beard

Pork (n.)circa 1300 (early 13th century in the surname Porkuiller) “flesh of a pig as food,” from the Old French porc “pig, swine, boar,” and directly from the Latin porcus “pig, tame swine,” from the Proto-Indo-European porko- “young swine.”

Homespun charcuterie that warms the cockles.

Akin to more cultured pâtés, rillettes are often made with pork, goose, duck, chicken, game birds, rabbit and even some species of fish such as anchovies, tuna, trout and salmon. Throughout France, there are some slightly varying regional renditions with some suave, silky and smooth while others are more rustic, coarse and textual each with differing spice and herb blends. Originally a peasant dish, rillettes are essentially a potted meat either braised or cooked as confit, that is poached slowly in fat and seasonings and morphed into a more or less lisse end product. If this helps at all, confiture de cochon (“pig jam”) is what the French have affectionately dubbed rillettes de porc. Literally translated into English, rillettes means “planks,” and these unctuous delights tend to keep well chilled in the fridge well before they walk one.

Although I hesitated to mention that rillettes make exquisite holiday gifts, wedding finger fare for non-vegans and the religiously lenient or as amuse-bouche or amuse-gueule — Martha would no doubt be pleased.

PORK RILLETTES

1 t allspice berries
1 t coriander seeds
1/2 t mustard seeds

1 lb. freshly cut pork belly, skin discarded
1 lb. freshly cut boneless pork shoulder, skin discarded

1/2 t ground black pepper
2 t sea salt
6 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 dried bay leaves
3 thyme and 3 parsley sprigs, tied into a bundle
1 C dry white wine

1/2 C cold water
1/2 C chicken stock

2 T pork or duck fat, to top

Heat the allspice berries, coriander and mustard seeds in a medium heavy skillet over low medium heat, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally, until they become aromatic, about 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool, and then coarsely grind in a spice grinder or coffee mill devoted to the task. Transfer to a small glass bowl and set aside.

Coarsely dice both the pork belly and shoulder and place in a heavy pot, making sure the mix reaches room temperature. Add allspice, coriander, mustard, pepper, salt, garlic, thyme and parsley bundle, and the bay leaves. Mix well and pour in the wine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a very slow simmer and cook, skimming any foam, for 30 minutes. Add the water and stock, return to a slow simmer, cover and cook for 3-4 hours, stirring only a few times, until the meat is fall-apart tender.

Uncover and increase heat to medium. Cook 20-30 minutes more until any liquid is pure fat, not water. Look at a spoonful of the liquid, making sure that the little water bubbles have evaporated. Taste the fat and adjust the seasonings to your preference. Set aside to cool some, then remove and discard thyme, parsley and bay leaves.

Mash and shred the mixture, using your fingers and/or forks. Alternatively, add the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low speed until smooth. Transfer to a ceramic crock, terrine, or glass jar with a lid that clamps tight, pressing down so there are no air bubbles. Put the rillettes into the container of choice and press down with the back of a spoon to remove any air pockets.

Melt the pork or duck fat in a small pan and pour a slight amount (about 1/4″ thick) over the tamped down rillettes. The fat should be set before serving. Gently place sheets of plastic wrap against the surface of the meat to remove any air.

Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight. Remove from refrigerator some 20 minutes before slathering on toast points or crusty baguette slices with cornichons, pickled red onions, and champagne or a Loire Valley white wine as sides.

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