Monday, July 23, 2007

Rillettes, anyone?

[ree-YEHT, rih-LEHTS]
Meat, usually pork but also rabbit, goose, poultry, fish, etc., that is slowly cooked in seasoned fat and then pounded or pulverized (along with some of the fat) into a paste. This mixture is then packed in small pots, RAMEKINS or other containers and covered with a thin layer of fat. Rillettes can be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator providing the fatty seal is not broken. This mixture, resembling a smooth PÂTÉ, is served cold, usually as an appetizer spread on toast or bread.

~ © Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

Rillettes, lovely and homey, and always reminiscent of a picnic in the French countryside. Although I live in a neighborhood (Silverlake) of a city (Los Angeles) where there are plenty of gourmet purveyors out there that carry rillettes (let's see, Say Cheese, Silverlake Cheese, The Gourmet Market at the Alcove Cafe, among others), I decided that as a self-proclaimed foodie, I had to make them myself. Come on, it's not like I don't have half a dozen cookbooks that have them listed in them.

Well, my take was to look at a couple (Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, and Brian Polcyn and Michel Ruhlman's Charcuterie) and to compose one for myself.

Right off the bat, I hit a snag... the recipes call for pork belly. Puppy-white-boy , my long-term house guest just got a job as a butcher at Virgin Grain High-End Food Emporium so I thought I'd drop him off for work and pick up a couple pounds.
Apparently, gourmet market or not, it's not likely I'm getting pork belly here. Fine, if that's not going to work, I'll Plan-B it.

Off to Glorious Filipino Mart that popped up in the basement of Eagle Rock Shopping Center a little while back. I know I can get it there, and for cheap at that. Sure enough, I walk in, and there's the pork belly staring right up at me. And at $1 per pound, I'm not about to complain. I pick up a pork shoulder roast for good measure, and off we go.


Makes quite a bit, so have a lot of ramekins or containers to put them in!

2 lb Pork Belly
1 lb Pork Shoulder
4 Cups Water

Herbs (I made my bouquet garni out of thyme, oregano, sage, and bay leaf along with a handful of peppercorns)

Salt and Pepper to taste
1 TblS Veal Demi-Glace
Pork Fat, cut thin

Cube up the pork. Line the bottom of your slowcooker/Dutch oven with the pork. Cover with water. Add the herbs.

Cook on low for 6 hours.

Remove pork from the slow cooker and place in a large bowl. Carefully shred the meat with forks until no chunks remain. Salt and Pepper to taste. Add in demi-glace and some of the cooking liquid and mix until it holds together.

Separate out pork into ramekins, top with fat, cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for 3 days.

If you've made a lot, you can freeze the extras. According to most all sources, rillettes will keep for about a month in the fridge as long as the fat covering is intact.

When you're ready, just bring the rillettes up to room temperature, and smear it on some bread and munch on. Add some cornichons and we're definitely in business!

As Anthony Bourdain put it in his cookbook:

Jesus, this dish is easy. Don't tell your friends. Let them think you're a genius, a master charcutier, while they're busy cooing and gaping.

Happy Cooking!

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